Green growth, inclusive growth and de-growth
The OECD say green growth is
“… economic growth and development while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which our well-being relies.”
One corollary of this must be that world economic activity should increase but the consequent greenhouse gas emissions do not cause dangerous climate change. This means emissions should remain within certain limits until greenhouse gasses can be extracted from the atmosphere. This extraction is thought to become possible in the second half of this century. Some rough calculations are presented below to explore the meaning of ‘green growth’.
The OECD say inclusive growth is
“… economic growth that creates opportunity for all segments of the population and distributes the dividends of increased prosperity, both in monetary and non-monetary terms, fairly across society.”
This means that no section of society is worse off. The increased production from growth allows both rich and poor to consume more: Everyone gains.
In What is Degrowth? From an Activist Slogan to a Social Movement, the authors (Federico
Demaria, François Schneider, Filka Sekulova and Joan Martinez-Alier) say
“Degrowth was launched in the beginning of the 21st century as a project of voluntary societal shrinking of production and consumption aimed at social and ecological sustainability.”
“The ‘meaning of life’ source of degrowth also draws on findings in the literature on the economics of happiness.”
This attributes the meaning of ‘degrowth’ to a movement wanting to persuade societies to
voluntarily shrink production and consumption and become happier.
So we have
- Green growth: More consumption without ruining the climate.
- Inclusive growth: Growth where everyone consumes more.
- Degrowth: Total consumption falls but everyone is happier.
Interest in these ideas of growth is growing
To find an overall impression of how interest in ideas of growth has changed recently, I used the Bing search engine to look for the number of results for the phrases, ‘Green growth’, ‘Inclusive growth’ and ‘Degrowth’ for each year in the past decade. To give a baseline related to economics, I did the same for the search term ‘Gross Domestic Product’.
The graph above shows the number of results giving the frequency of results by year of publication divided by the number of results for ‘Gross Domestic Product’.
(e.g. for the year 2012 there were 6209 results for the search term ‘green growth’ and 116,000 results for the search term ‘gross domestic product’. This gives a ratio of 0.054 as shown on the graph for the year 2012.)
These numbers fit the overall impression that interest in ‘green growth’ is increasing but not as fast as ‘inclusive growth’. Unsurprisingly, ‘Degrowth’ is increasing but at a lower level.
I did this as part of a submission to Tom Watson’s Commission on the Future of Work.