economist 12-11-2022 Economic growth no longer means higher carbon emissions – As politicians gather in Egypt, a reason for optimism
economist.com 15-10-2022 Energy shocks can have perverse consequences – The 1970s offer unhappy lessons for policymakers
science.org 2019 Unraveling the claims for (and against) green growth – Can the global economy grow indefinitely, decoupled from Earth’s limitations? by TIM JACKSON, PETER A. VICTOR
American economist Kenneth Boulding famously quipped, “Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist” (1). He was giving evidence to the U.S. Congress in 1973, in the wake of the Club of Rome’s first, enormously influential and provocative report, The Limits to Growth (2). The remark has survived to this day as a somewhat satirical comment on the economics profession, but it also has a certain internal logic and provides a useful starting point for thinking about the “decoupling wars” that tend to be fought around the compatibility between economic growth and environmental limits (3)
Can the global economy grow indefinitely, decoupled from Earth’s limitations?
academia.edu/gg/pdf 2015 The post- and future politicsof green economy and REDD – by Kathleen McAfee
kpmg 7-2022 Eco-capitalism – is it as green as it seems? Today, a more sustainable and responsible form of capitalism known as eco-capitalism has emerged, but it comes with a caveat – by Vikram Ramankutty
There have long been those who believe the world’s woes are undeniably linked to capitalism’s faults. There’s an appreciation of capitalism’s role in advancing healthcare, food production, transportation, and other aspects that improve the 21st century’s quality of life. Critics maintain the capitalistic approach is inherently exploitative, unstable and unsustainable.
In 2020, a growing chorus of voices declared that systematic integration in business operations was essential and that stewardship of intangible assets, including people and data, was crucial for value creation.
The predictable recoiling from this concept was fierce. Most corporate boards and institutional investors acknowledged that ESG principles were in the long-term interests of principal stakeholders and shareholders.
Today, a more sustainable and responsible form of capitalism known as eco-capitalism has emerged, but it comes with a caveat. The dilemma for most businesses remains the same as it was twenty years ago: money and growth still drive the capitalistic approach, but companies want to be “green” — or at least perceived that way.
Despite current stringent governmental ESG regulations and widespread adoption of “green” technologies that help reduce waste and pollution, over-production and over-consumption continue their relentless advance in the name of economic growth. This has led to a growing backlash and questioning of the true purposes of ESG regulations and if they’re genuinely beneficial to society.
Why did this happen?
Capitalism has provided much for human welfare and prosperity, but it’s far from perfect. By the early 2020s, its shortcomings had become ever more apparent, with a post-pandemic population expressing discontent with a system prioritizing short-term profits for individuals while harming society’s long-term well-being.
Today, most companies have adopted their own forms of eco or green capitalism, with many implementing cost-cutting measures in manufacturing, energy consumption, packaging, and transportation. Yet questions remain over whether these policies are truly beneficial to society. For instance, if increasing production and consumption aren’t even considered essential sustainability goals, is it possible for renewable energy sources, lab-grown foods, and other initiatives like hybrid working models to have a significant impact?
Although much progress has been made in using new technologies and business models to increase resource and production efficiencies, people want companies to also focus on reducing expansion, a concept that’s still fundamentally contrary to capitalism’s principles. So, while manufacturers embrace green initiatives like emissions reduction, continued production and consumption growth mean they aren’t sufficient to combat global issues like climate change.
Despite governmental efforts and companies saying they value environmental stewardship regarding climate change, water, and biodiversity, a temperature rise of 1.5C continues to be seen in 2040.
Is a responsible and sustainable version of capitalism possible? In 2040, it appears it remains an inherently irrational system that insists on pursuing expansion and profit to the exclusion of all other societal considerations. The predicted ecological disasters of the 2020s and 2030s, including wildfires, storms, and droughts, led to widespread humanitarian crises and economic damages that continue to this day.
There’s now growing public support for an eco-socialist system that supporters, including traditional left-wing political parties, say counters the inefficiencies of eco-capitalism. Their stated goal is to dismantle corporate interests that claim to be eco-capitalistic but continue their quest for greater production and profitability.
In the meantime, the quandary created by developing economies that continue with the capitalist model and eschew green technologies and ESG regulations remains. However, professionals say there will inevitably come the day when all natural and social capital has been extracted and these capitalistic economies will likely no longer be sustainable. When that day arrives remains to be seen.
Public understanding of, and outcry over, the dire state of the climate and environment is greater than ever before. Parties across the political spectrum claim to be climate leaders, and overt denial is on the way out. Yet when it comes to slowing the course of the climate and nature crises, despite a growing number of pledges, policies and summits, little ever seems to change. Nature is being destroyed at an unprecedented rate. We remain on course for a catastrophic 3 DegreesC of warming. What’s holding us back?
In this searing and insightful critique, Adrienne Buller examines the fatal biases that have shaped the response of our governing institutions to climate and environmental breakdown, and asks: are the ‘solutions’ being proposed really solutions? Tracing the intricate connections between financial power, economic injustice and ecological crisis, she exposes the myopic economism and market-centric thinking presently undermining a future where all life can flourish. The book examines what is wrong with mainstream climate and environmental governance, from carbon pricing and offset markets to ‘green growth’, the commodification of nature and the growing influence of the finance industry on environmental policy. In doing so, it exposes the self-defeating logic of a response to these challenges based on creating new opportunities for profit, and a refusal to grapple with the inequalities and injustices that have created them. Both honest and optimistic, The Value of a Whale asks us – in the face of crisis – what we really value.
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goodreads – hive.co.uk – newstatesman 7-2022 Adrienne Buller: “Green capitalism is its own form of denial” – The Canadian author discusses her new book The Value of a Whale and why markets won’t save the world. By George Eaton
The acceptable face of capitalism is today a green one. Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg and Mark Carney all insist that markets are the key to saving the planet. But as the climate crisis becomes ever more inescapable, should anyone believe the hype?
In her new book The Value of a Whale, Adrienne Buller exposes what she calls “the illusions of green capitalism”. The title is a reference to the price that the International Monetary Fund recently assigned to great whales: $2m per specimen on account of their contribution to eco-tourism revenue and their capacity for carbon sequestration.
“It captures the most absurd elements of this project,” Buller, 28, the incoming director of research at the Common Wealth think tank, told me when we met at London’s Natural History Museum, where a blue whale skeleton (named Hope) hangs from the ceiling. “The idea that you would try to conserve nature by finding a way to put a price tag on great whales – porpoises and dolphins are excluded, by the way, because they aren’t important enough to carbon sequestration. That captures how meaningless a lot of these approaches can become if we don’t stop to think about exactly what we’re doing, which is separating out individual species from the environment they’re in.”
Though Buller writes movingly of her first encounter with a whale as a seven-year-old in British Columbia – “the distinct feeling that I had just had the curtain lifted on another world” – her book is not that of a romantic liberal. Rather, it is a deeply researched account of why green capitalism is self-defeating.
Buller concedes the intuitive appeal of ideas such as carbon offsetting before exposing the tragic and sometimes farcical reality. “A lot of carbon offsets based around reforestation have actually gone up in flames in climate-related wildfires in North America,” she said, including land claimed for green purposes by Microsoft and BP. Others were never offsets to begin with.
In September 2020, the energy firm TotalEnergies claimed that a $17m shipment of liquefied natural gas was “carbon neutral” on the grounds that it paid local volunteers and workers to clear the underbrush of a Zimbabwean forest as a wildfire preventative measure. “What this does is justify further emissions under the guise that, somewhere down the line, they will be removed. A lot of the time that isn’t what happens,” said Buller. She gave the example of Shell’s net-zero plan, which would require an area of land for reforestation three times the size of the Netherlands by 2030. “If you apply that kind of logic to all the world’s major polluters, or consumer decisions, you pretty quickly run out of land,” Buller wryly observed. “This is the inevitable outcome of an offset regime that’s based on enabling consumption to go on unchanged among the affluent.”
What of ESG (environmental, social and governance factors): the buzz phrase beloved of green capitalists and the City? “It’s become a scapegoat on the right and the irony is that I agree with that assessment – a lot of it does represent green- and woke-washing,” she said. In other words, an ethical facade that masks a less appealing reality.
“Many of the ESG products that are being offered are devoid of any kind of investment in a green future,” Buller said. “They take a mainstream fund such as the S&P 500 and slightly change the weighting so that you have less exposure to airlines and fossil fuels and, most likely, much higher exposure to Big Tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook.
“It’s hard to argue that Amazon, for example, has a particularly great standard on labour rights or that there haven’t been issues around exploitative supply chains for a number of those companies.”
But is the fundamental problem the entire notion of green capitalism, or simply that it isn’t being tried properly? “The argument I make is that green capitalism is a contradiction in terms,” Buller told me. “Because it’s predicated on systems and dynamics that are not reconcilable with a sustainable planet, whether that is the idea of constant and unending growth entirely decoupled from material resource use or the fact we’ve sustained Western lifestyles off the exploitation of invisible people and places around the world.
“Eventually you run out of cheap labour to exploit, you run out of land to use for offsets and you run out of resources to exploit for all of us to have our own shiny new electric vehicle.” Green capitalism, in short, is “its own form of denial”, she said.
Buller was born in Vancouver and politicised by her surroundings. “I spent my childhood running around temperate rainforests and swimming in the Pacific. But Canada is also an intensely resource-extractive economy and some of my most powerful early memories are of massive clear-cut forestry projects.”
For her, the country’s progressive image is at odds with its regressive economic model. “We just have very good PR. Justin Trudeau is a case in point. The man will walk at the head of student climate marches but then the country has to collectively own a pipeline”. (The Trans Mountain pipeline was bought by the Canadian government for C$4.5bn in 2018.)
Buller comes from a medical family – her mother is a healthcare CEO, named as one of Canada’s most powerful women, her father is an interventional cardiologist – and her first degree was in life sciences at McGill University. She moved to the UK in 2017, at the height of Corbynism, and studied global governance and ethics for her master’s at University College London, subsequently becoming co-director of the campaign group Labour for a Green New Deal.
When asked what she makes of Labour’s post-Corbyn trajectory under Keir Starmer, Buller is withering. “It’s completely misjudged that Labour has moved entirely away from the pledges that he campaigned on [during the 2020 leadership election] and that includes a robust commitment to tackling the climate crisis,” she said. “I do think that has been a big betrayal and I will stand by the word betrayal. There has been a betrayal of the activist base that I don’t think even Keir Starmer would deny and that has been an explicit strategy to differentiate himself from his predecessor.”
[See also: “I often spend my time sounding like a Lib Dem”: Rory Stewart on the fractured Tory party]
Part of a new generation of transatlantic left thinkers, Buller was drawn to socialism by “a much more honest conception of freedom around our collective emancipation, rather than my freedom necessarily being reliant on exploitation of others”. Her forthcoming second book, Owning the Future (published on 23 August), is co-authored with Mathew Lawrence, the director of Common Wealth, and will argue for “a new era of democratic ownership: a reinvention of the firm as a vehicle for collective endeavour and meeting social needs”.
In Four Futures (2016), the US writer Peter Frase explored four possible scenarios for life after capitalism: luxury communism (equality and abundance), rentism (hierarchy and abundance), socialism (equality and scarcity) and exterminism (hierarchy and scarcity). Of these, it is the final one that Buller regards as most likely, at least for now. “There will be pressures around the world for necessary climate migration and my greatest fear is that we have a society that becomes comfortable with creating an even harsher ‘Fortress Europe’ and that designates huge parts of the world as sacrifice zones.
“It may not be viable in the long term because eventually you undermine the conditions for that zone of safety. But things will have to get worse before they get better,” she said.
theguardian.com 7-2022 What’s really behind the failure of green capitalism? – by Adrienne Buller
hup.harvard.edu 5-2022 Growth for Good – Reshaping Capitalism to Save Humanity from Climate Catastrophe – by Alessio Terzi
From the front lines of economics and policy making, a compelling case that economic growth is a force for good and a blueprint for enrolling it in the fight against climate change.
Economic growth is wrecking the planet. It’s the engine driving climate change, pollution, and the shrinking of natural spaces. To save the environment, will we have to shrink the economy? Might this even lead to a better society, especially in rich nations, helping us break free from a pointless obsession with material wealth that only benefits the few? Alessio Terzi takes these legitimate questions as a starting point for a riveting journey into the socioeconomic, evolutionary, and cultural origins of our need for growth. It’s an imperative, he argues, that we abandon at our own risk.
Terzi ranges across centuries and diverse civilizations to show that focus on economic expansion is deeply interwoven with the human quest for happiness, well-being, and self-determination. Growth, he argues, is underpinned by core principles and dynamics behind the West’s rise to affluence. These include the positivism of the Enlightenment, the acceleration of science and technology and, ultimately, progress itself. Today growth contributes to the stability of liberal democracy, the peaceful conduct of international relations, and the very way our society is organized through capitalism. Abandoning growth would not only prove impractical, but would also sow chaos, exacerbating conflict within and among societies.
This does not mean we have to choose between chaos and environmental destruction. Growth for Good presents a credible agenda to enroll capitalism in the fight against climate catastrophe. With the right policies and the help of engaged citizens, pioneering nations can set in motion a global decarbonization wave and in parallel create good jobs and a better, greener, healthier world.
spe.org 7-2022 Growth for Good review by Ian Bright
…”…Conversation had turned to the economic situation in Italy. Terzi had suggested structural reforms to increase growth. Giorgio, his host, suggested otherwise. “We need to stop growing! As my friend Serge always says, we need to degrowth.” (p. ix) The host was referring to the work of French intellectual Serge Latouche, one of the masterminds of the decroissance, or degrowth, movement.
This remark obviously struck the undergraduate economist as, 15 years later, Alessio Terzi has written a book debunking the degrowth movement. Mr Terzi is now an economist at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs and has held posts at the think tank Bruegel and was an Affiliate Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy Business School. The book is detailed, with extensive footnotes and copious references, yet reads easily.
The book takes aim at idealistic approaches to the way societies organise themselves, particularly in relation to the immediate need to address climate change. Late in the book, Mr Terzi summarises his criticism of degrowth approaches as follows:
“Indeed, books on climate change and the future economy have a very strong tendency to take a normative stance. Authors in this genre get easily carried away by idealistic future predictions, based on their own aspirations, rather than sticking to impersonal analyses of social facts – and typically adopt a moral angle, enrolling the climate crisis to advocate a broader, pre-existing, worldview or ideology. Many view the need to reshape capitalism to address climate change as an occasion to fix all past wrongdoings, such as global and local inequality, colonialism, patriarchy, racism and even conspicuous consumption. This tendency is not confined to eco-socialist, post-growth visionaries. It is shared across the spectrum, all the way to green growth advocates.” (p. 155)
Mr Terzi prefers a more practical approach. The book “focuses more on what is likely to happen and to be feasible than on what would be ideal or desirable based on a particular moral compass. Climate change alone will be a colossal challenge, and adding extra layers of complexity will hardly make it easier to address – so conversations about the future of capitalism in light of climate change could benefit from some realpolitik.” (p. 155)
Mr Terzi notes that the current degrowth movement is nothing new. He cites its roots going back to the primitivism school of thought in the eighteenth century about the time of the industrial revolution (see pp. 45-46). Degrowth movements would hinder progress and innovation despite people and societies wanting progress and innovation. These approaches would also be “…incompatible with personal freedom as liberal democratic societies have always defined it.” (p. 58).
The arguments presented against slow/ zero/ de-growth are similar to those made By Branko Milanovic in his review of Kate Raworth’s 2017 book “Doughnut Economics”.
Mr Terzi argues that allowing the innovative tendencies of capitalist systems to flourish is the best way to address many of the problems societies face, especially when it comes to climate change. It is here that Mr Terzi may be on less firm ground. Chapter eight purports to present a blueprint for green capitalism, yet it is difficult to discern a plan, rather than six principles for guiding the actions of governments, international coordination and business.
This fits with the observation of the book that global, regional and national economic systems are complex. Given this complexity, guidance can work better than intervention. Here, I feel that Mr Terzi underplays the need for urgent and possibly radical guidance and incentives by governments. Despite the criticism of Mariana Mazzucato’s work (see pp. 66 and 67 and also this from John Kay), the risks associated with climate change are such that more active intervention and regulatory incentives may be necessary. As I understand it, this is also the position of Lonergan and Sawyers in their book Supercharge Me.
Mr Terzi is also too forgiving of economics and the economics profession for its slowness to act on climate change and also of the role of businesses in attempting to undermine the science of climate change (see p.138). Lord Stern (see, for example, this 2021 lecture) is rightly critical of not only the slowness of economists to respond to climate change but also of the models and thought processes they use to assess the problem. He calls for a change in economics to recognise this. Lord Stern argues for more activism than Mr Terzi appears to suggest. I’m on the side of his Lordship.”
euronews.com 2-2022 The IPCC report proves ‘green capitalism’ doesn’t work – by Morgan Phillips
mitpress.edu 2022 Tomorrow’s Economy – A Guide to Creating Healthy Green Growth – By Per Espen Stoknes
A balance sheet for the planet: How we can achieve healthy growth—more regenerative than wasteful, instilling equity rather than exacerbating inequalities.
In Tomorrow’s Economy, Per Espen Stoknes reframes the hot-button issue of economic growth. Going beyond the usual pro-growth versus anti-growth debate, Stoknes calls for healthy growth. Healthy economic growth is more regenerative than wasteful, repairs problems rather than greenwashing them, and restores equity rather than exacerbating inequalities. Stoknes—a psychologist, economist, climate strategy researcher, and green-tech entrepreneur—shows that we already have the tools to achieve healthy growth, but our success depends on transformations in scaling innovations, government practices, and individual behaviors. Stoknes provides a compass to guide us toward the mindset, mechanisms, and possibilities of healthy growth.
Stoknes explains that healthy growth reimagines value creation as resource smart and inclusive. Healthy growth is measurably profitable, more resource-productive, and more redistributive by design each year. Stoknes distinguishes between healthy and unhealthy kinds of economic growth at personal, corporate, city, national, and global levels, mapping a three-part synergy that benefits buyers, sellers, and society. He outlines actions we can take now—including the creation of a new legal entity, the benefit corporation—and lays out six steps companies can take toward healthy growth. He also describes how we can vote with our wallets to prioritize sustainability. The engaged citizen, he tells us, is central to the shift toward healing growth.
wrm.org.uy 2021 Analysing the Discourse of ‘Green’ Capitalism: The Meaning of Nature in ‘Nature-Based’ -Michael F. Schmidlehner
The term ‘nature-based solutions,’ in the context of the exclusionary and predatory projects that gather behind it, reveals something fundamental.
progresaid 2021 Climate Change and Capitalism: How Our Current System Ruins the Planet – by Alifia Tsabita Oviningtyas
benjerry.com 4-2019 The Green New Deal: Saving Capitalism, Saving the Planet
Today the world is facing an unprecedented crisis. If we don’t do something about it, life on earth as we know it will never be the same. But time is running out. We have to act now. Yes, we have to rescue capitalism. It’s being held hostage by fossil-fuel industry CEOs and their lobbyists and all their out-of-date ideas—and without our help it (along with the rest of us) will be swallowed up by climate change’s rising seas. Luckily, there’s a proposal out there that just might save capitalism: the Green New Deal. (Bonus: it could also save the planet.)
“It’s long been axiomatic that economic growth and energy demand are linked. As economies grow, energy demand increases; if energy is constrained, GDP growth pulls back in turn. That’s been the case since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, if not long before. But past is not always prologue. Our latest global energy perspective—part of a multiyear research effort examining the supply and demand of 55 types of energy across 30 sectors in some 146 countries—suggests that we’re beginning to see a decoupling between the rates of economic growth and energy demand, which in the decades ahead will become even more pronounced…”…
dewrikker.be gg/pdf 2019 Decoupling Debunked – evidence and arguments – by Parrique T., Barth J., Briens F., C. Kerschner, Kraus-Polk A., Kuokkanen A., Spangenberg J.
Is it possible to enjoy both economic growth and environmental sustainability? This question is a matter of fierce political debate between green growth and post-growth advocates. Over the past decade, green growth clearly dominated policy making with policy agendas at the United Nations, European Union, and in numerous countries building on the assumption that decoupling environmental pressures from gross domestic product (GDP) could allow future economic growth without end. Considering what is at stake, a careful assessment to determine whether the scientific foundations behind this “decoupling hypothesis” are robust or not is needed. This report reviews the empirical and theoretical literature to assess the validity of this hypothesis. The conclusion is both overwhelmingly
clear and sobering: not only is there no empirical evidence supporting the existence of a decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures on anywhere near the scale needed to deal with environmental breakdown, but also, and perhaps more importantly, such decoupling appears unlikely to happen in the future.
It is urgent to chart the consequences of these findings in terms of policy-making and prudently move away from the continuous pursuit of economic growth in high-consumption countries. More precisely, existing policy strategies aiming to increase efficiency have to be complemented by the pursuit of sufficiency, that is the direct downscaling of economic production in many sectors and parallel reduction of consumption that together will enable the good life within the planet’s ecological limits. In the view of the authors of this report and based on the best available scientific evidence, only such strategies respect the EU’s ‘precautionary principle,’ the principle that when the stakes are high and the outcomes uncertain, one should err on the side of caution.
The fact that decoupling on its own, i.e. without addressing the issue of economic growth, has not been and will not be sufficient to reduce environmental pressures to the required extent is not a reason to oppose decoupling (in the literal sense of separating the environmental pressures curve from the GDP curve) or the measures that achieve decoupling – on the contrary, without many such measures the situation would be far worse. It is a reason to have major concerns about the predominant focus of policymakers on green growth, this focus being based on the flawed assumption that sufficient decoupling can be achieved through increased efficiency without limiting economic production and
tandfonline gg/pdf 2017 Decoupling: A Key Fantasy of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda Robert Fletcher & Crelis Rammelt
ABSTRACT – Central to the United Nations’ post-2015 development agenda grounded in the Sustainable Development Goals is the notion of ‘decoupling’: the need to divorce economic growth from its ecological impact. For proponents, decoupling entails increasing the efficiency with which value is derived from natural resources in order to reconcile indefinite economic growth with environmental sustainability. However, even advocates admit that the idea of decoupling remains poorly conceptualized and subject to scant empirical investigation. This persistent commitment to a highly questionable idea suggests the possibility of a deeper psychological dynamic at work here. Drawing on Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, in this article we therefore analyze decoupling as a ‘fantasy’ that functions to obfuscate fundamental tensions among the goals of poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, and profitable enterprise that it is intended to reconcile. In this way, decoupling serves to sustain faith in the possibility of attaining sustainable development within the context of a neoliberal capitalist economy that necessitates continual growth to confront inherent contradictions.
Keywords: capitalism, neoliberalism, environment, decoupling, psychoanalysis
- eco crisis
- climate crisis
- Ecological Economics
- green, eco capitalism, decoupling
- Green Finance/Investment/ESG
- green techno + production
- growth & Greta
- growth! gdp growth, de-growth, what growth? –updates
- growth! what growth?
- natural resources
- POST -apocalypse -capitalism -growth -imperial