Is Green growth rather than degrowth the way forward?

Martin Sandbu of the Financial Times in his Free Lunch on Film produced a very good video (see below) on how, with the help of technology, the global economy can be decarbonised without impacting on what is seen as normal growth rates. He travels to his native Norway where Oslo has around 30% of all its passenger cars being EV’s. The key to its success has been to make EV’s as affordable and attractive as conventional cars. Policies of tax exemptions on EV’s, lower tolls, cheaper parking and taxes on polluting vehicles have directed consumers to the cleaner option. He goes on to talk about the Kaya Identity. This is the relationship between four factors:

  • Global carbon dioxide emissions, in carbon dioxide (CO2);
  • Global primary energy consumption, in Ton of Oil Equivalent (TOE);
  • GDP, in dollars ($);
  • Global population, in billions.

In other words global CO2 emissions from a human source = global population x quality of life x energy intensity x intensity of carbon in the energy mix.

  • GDP/Per Capita: represents the total value of output in an economy divided by the population
  • Energy/GDP: represents the energy intensity, i.e. the amount of energy used (in kWh) necessary to create a monetary unit, meaning to manufacture a product or provide a service. This intends to encourage us to rationalise our use of energy.
  • CO2/energy: represents the intensity of carbon in the global energy mix. This relationship demands a reduction in CO2 emissions in the production of energy, in particular through the promotion of energies low in carbon, such as renewable energy.

So from Kaya we can decarbonise in 3 ways:

  • shrink the world’s population.
  • limit and reduce incomes.
  • lower the amount of CO2 emitted for each dollar of GDP.

In some areas, like ground transport, it’s technologically feasible, even easy, to take the carbon out. In other areas, it’s more costly, more difficult, maybe even impossible to do by 2050: flying, cement making, meat production. The video is well worth the time to watch.

Degrowth – is life better with less?

Most economics courses will include the topic of limitations of Gross Domestic Product as an indicator of standard of living. US senator Robert F Kennedy pointed out 50 years ago that GDP traditionally measures everything except those things that make life worthwhile. Increasing GDP has been the indicator of a healthy economy but is it time for degrowth? This CNBC video looks at whether degrowth is the way forward and should we priorities social and ecological well-being? Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand have focused on well-being rather than economic growth. New Zealand’s recent ‘well-being’ budget indicated this. Good video for the future direction of macro policies and where we are going as a society.