Prosperity without growth?

prosperity-without-growth1A major new report by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) argues that the pursuit of economic growth is one of the root causes of the current financial crisis, as well contributing to a growing environmental crisis and undermining well-being in developed countries.

The Prosperity without growth? report says that the current global recession should be the occasion to forge a new economic system equipped to avoid the shocks and negative impacts associated with our reliance on growth. The report calls on world leaders to adopt a 12-step plan to make the transition to a fair, sustainable, low-carbon economy.

The report shows that economic growth has delivered its benefits at best unequally, with a fifth of the world’s population earning just 2% of global income. Even in developed countries, huge gaps remain in wealth and well-being between rich and poor.

The global economy is already almost 5 times larger than it was 50 years ago. If it were to continue to grow at the same rate, it would be 80 times larger by the end of this century.

While modernising production and redesigning goods and services have led to greater resource and energy efficiency in recent decades, the report finds that aspirations for ‘decoupling’ environmental impacts from economic growth are unrealistic. Even based on a moderate level of growth of 2% per year, meeting 2050 carbon reduction targets would mean achieving a carbon content of no more than 6gCO2 for each dollar spent – a staggering 130 times lower than the average carbon intensity today.

The report proposes a plan for government to develop a new macro-economics for sustainability, which does not rely for its stability on growth and expanding material throughput.

Recommendations include:

  • Creating the conditions for people to flourish
  • Building a sustainable macro-economy which is no longer structurally reliant on increasing consumption
  • Putting an awareness of ecological limits at the heart of economic decision-making

The report was based on a series of think pieces tackling four areas:

  1. Visions of prosperity
  2. Economy ‘lite’
  3. Confronting structure
  4. Well-being policy

These discussions provided the foundation for this challenging report.

The Sustainable Development Commission plans to further the discussion and debate raised by the report. The report has been delivered to the Prime Minister, government leaders in the devolved administrations, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and other government ministers, as well as business and civil society leaders.

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One Response

  1. […] Development Commission’s “Prosperity Without Growth” report from last year. Great primer/overview over on the West Midlands Regional Observatory blog, including a link to the full […]

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