Certified B Corporation Badge


Let it grow

25 November, 2022

For several centuries the world has been getting steadily richer, a trend that has yielded significant improvements in the way many of us live. Mainstream climate policy, the kind you’re probably familiar with, seeks to reduce carbon emissions while continuing to maintain and improve quality of life.  

But there’s a school of thought that argues this is not possible. The “degrowth” movement argues that a sustainable society can only be achieved by downscaling economic production and consumption. According to degrowthers, the only way to save the planet is a radical restructuring of the global economy and a shift in societal values.  

According to the data, however, that’s not necessarily true. A recent analysis by the Economist shows that there is a large and growing group of countries that are cutting emissions while maintaining economic growth. This is due to a wide variety of factors, including energy efficiency improvements, switches to lower carbon energy sources, and a broader transition to more service-based economies (the analysis takes into account emissions from imports, so it’s not simply a case of displacing emissions to other countries).  

This is not to say that there won’t be some trade-offs between economic growth and climate action, but it does make it more possible to imagine a world that is prosperous, equitable and low carbon. As Ezra Klein explores in a recent (fascinating) podcast, growth is too often seen as the continuation of the same destructive and extractive behaviours that led to the climate crisis. Instead, the shift to a net zero economy creates openings for industrial and technological transformations that will bring with them significant economic opportunities.  

The challenge now is to accelerate the decoupling of growth and GDP, particularly in lower and middle-income countries. But the fact that it is possible is good news for all.   

By Louise Podmore

You might also like