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ABSTRACT: Economic growth is not compatible with environmental sustainability. The effort to push up the rate of growth by increasing obligations to repay financial debts is in direct conflict with the availability of exhaustible resources and with the capacity of waste sinks. The economic crisis of 2008–09 has resulted in a welcome change to the totally unsustainable trend of increasing carbon dioxide emissions. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 was generous to the rich countries, giving them property rights on the carbon sinks and the atmosphere in exchange for the promise of a reduction of 5 per cent of their emissions relative to 1990. This modest Kyoto objective will be fulfilled more easily because of the economic crisis. This shows that economic de-growth, leading to a steady state, is a plausible objective for the rich industrial economies. This would be supported by the environmental justice movements of the South, which are active in resource extraction conflicts.

Development and Change, FORUM 2009; Volume 40, Issue 6, pages 1099–1119, November 2009