Climate change and increasing income inequality have emerged as twin threats to contemporary standards of living, peace and democracy. These two problems are usually tackled separately in the policy agenda. A new breed of radical proposals have been advanced to manage a fair low-carbon transition. In this spirit, we develop a dynamic macrosimulation model to investigate the long-term effects of three scenarios: green growth, policies for social equity, and degrowth. The green growth scenario, based on technological progress and environmental policies, achieves a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at the cost of increasing income inequality and unemployment. The policies for social equity scenario adds direct labour market interventions that result in an environmental performance similar to green growth while improving social conditions at the cost of increasing public deficit. The degrowth scenario further adds a reduction in consumption and exports, and achieves a greater reduction in emissions and inequality with higher public deficit, despite the introduction of a wealth tax. We argue that new radical social policies can combine social prosperity and low-carbon emissions and are economically and politically feasible.
Nature Sustainability, March 2020