The material footprint of nations

Abstract: Metrics on resource productivity currently used by governments suggest that some developed countries have increased the use of natural resources at a slower rate than economic growth (relative decoupling) or have even managed to use fewer resources over time (absolute decoupling). Using the material footprint (MF), a consumption-based indicator of resource use, we find the contrary: Achievements in decoupling in advanced economies are smaller than reported or even nonexistent. We present a time series analysis of the MF of 186 countries and identify material flows associated with global production and consumption networks in unprecedented specificity. By calculating raw material equivalents of international trade, we demonstrate that countries’ use of nondomestic resources is, on average, about threefold larger than the physical quantity of traded goods. As wealth grows, countries tend to reduce their domestic portion of materials extraction through international trade, whereas the overall mass of material consumption generally increases. With every 10% increase in gross domestic product, the average national MF increases by 6%. Our findings call into question the sole use of current resource productivity indicators in policy making and suggest the necessity of an additional focus on consumption-based accounting for natural resource use.

PNAS, May 2015, 112 (20), pp. 6271-6276

Growth in the docks: ports, metabolic flows and socio-environmental impacts

Shipping carries virtually all internationally traded goods. Major commercial ports are fully integrated into transnational production and distribution systems, enabling the circulation of massive flows of energy and materials in the global economy. Port activity and development are usually associated with positive socio-economic effects, such as increased GDP and employment, but the industry’s continuous expansion produces adverse outcomes including air and water pollution, the destruction of marine and coastal environments, waterfront congestion, health risks, and labor issues. In its quest to marry economic growth and environmental sustainability in the maritime industries, proponents of the newly coined blue growth paradigm assume the negative impacts of ports and shipping to be fixable mostly through technological innovation. This paper questions the validity of the premise that the unlimited growth of the port and shipping industries is compatible with environmental sustainability and analyses the feasibility of technological improvements to offset the sector’s associated negative impacts. Based on insights from ecological economics and political ecology, ports can be described as power-laden assemblages of spaces, flows, and actors, which produce unequally distributed socio-ecological benefits and burdens at multiple scales. Focusing on the case of the Port of Barcelona, this study argues that the continuous expansion of port activity increases seldom accounted-for negative socio-environmental impacts, acquiring an uneconomic character for port cities and regions. In contrast, de-growth is presented as a radical sustainability alternative to ocean-based growth paradigms. The paper concludes by discussing its prospective ‘blue’ articulation in the context of maritime transportation while offering some avenues for future research and policymaking.

Sustainability Science, vol. 15, 2020

Trade governance will make or break the Green New Deal. How the GND could, should, must redefine “protectionism” and transform international trade

“A climate policy must change the way that the global economy works if it is to be successful, but if a policy is effective enough to disrupt global trade, it will violate global trade rules.”

A Green New Deal for an ecological economy. Introducing a series of proposals for a truly transformative GND

This essay is the first in a series of articles that aim to inform the GND through the lens of ecological economics. The series will feature short position papers by students of the Economics for the Anthropocene program, a three-university collaboration to train graduate students in ecological economics, as well as by other invited experts.

These short articles will focus on thematic issues outlined in the GND, touching on questions such as: How can we pay for the GND? Would it break international trade law? What agricultural policies should an ecologically sound GND include? How do we organize to win a GND? And so on. The authors will propose specific principles and policies to ensure the GND lives up to its eco-revolutionary potential.

Post-Growth Conference, Brussels 2018 – Workshop Trade & Environment

Chair: Kathleen Van Brempt, MEP (S&D)
Panellists: Fritz Hinterberger (Founding President of Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI)), Olivier de Schutter (Professor at the University of Louvain (Belgium) and at SciencesPo (Paris), former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food (2008-2014)), Patrizia Heidegger (Global Policies Director at the EEB), Luisa Santos (Business Europe)

Natural and socioeconomic determinants of the embodied human appropriation of net primary production and its relation to other resource use indicators

Indicators of resource use such as material and energy flow accounts, emission data and the ecological footprint inform societies about their performance by evaluating resource use efficiency and the effectiveness of sustainability policies. The human appropriation of net primary production (HANPP) is an indicator of land-use intensity on each nation’s territory used in research as well as in environmental reports. ‘Embodied HANPP’ (eHANPP) measures the HANPP anywhere on earth resulting from a nation’s domestic biomass consumption. The objectives of this article are (i) to study the relation between eHANPP and other resource use indicators and (ii) to analyse socioeconomic and natural determinants of global eHANPP patterns in the year 2000. We discuss a statistical analysis of >140 countries aiming to better understand these relationships. We found that indicators of material and energy throughput, fossil-energy related CO2 emissions as well as the ecological footprint are highly correlated with each other as well as with GDP, while eHANPP is neither correlated with other resource use indicators nor with GDP, despite a strong correlation between final biomass consumption and GDP. This can be explained by improvements in agricultural efficiency associated with GDP growth. Only about half of the variation in eHANPP can be explained by differences in national land-use systems, suggesting a considerable influence of trade on eHANPP patterns. eHANPP related with biomass trade can largely be explained by differences in natural endowment, in particular the availability of productive area. We conclude that eHANPP can deliver important complimentary information to indicators that primarily monitor socioeconomic metabolism.

Ecological Indicators, vol. 23(3), December 2012, pp. 222-231

The economic and energy impacts of a UK export shock: comparing alternative modelling approaches

This study investigates how an increase in exports (a key pillar in the UK Industrial Strategy) could impact energy and industrial policy by comparing two types of energy-economy models. Achieving the targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions set out in the UK Climate Change Act will require a significant transformation in the UK’s energy system. At the same time, the government is pursuing a new UK Industrial Strategy, which aims to improve labour productivity, create high-quality jobs and boos exports across the UK. The economic and the energy systems in the UK are tightly linked and so policies adopted in one area will produce spillover effects to the other. To achieve the objectives set out in the two strategies it is therefore vital to understand how the policies in the energy system will affect economic development and vice versa. Our study contributes to this by investigating how an increase in exports (a key pillar in the UK Industrial Strategy) could impact energy and industrial policy. We address this question by systematically comparing the results of two types of energy-economy models of the UK, a computable general equilibrium model (CGE) and a macroeconometric (ME) model. In both models we analyse a stimulus to demand from an increase in exports arising from a successful export strategy as motivated by the UK Industrial Strategy.

Corrente busca modelos alternativos ao crescimento econômico ilimitado

No chamado “decrescimento”, o bem-estar humano não está atrelado à necessidade permanente de crescimento.
(Do autor)

Entrevista com Gabriel Trettel Silva e Sylmara Lopes a respeito de pesquisa de mestrado sobre decrescimento e os países do chamado Sul global.

What are the degrowth implications for long-distance trade?

Speech by Filka Sekulova at the Degrowth Conference 2016 in Budapest

What are the degrowth implications for long-distance trade?

Degrowth has enjoyed an increasing attention in academia with more than 150 peer-reviewed publications over the last 8 years. Trade, however, remains a grey area. This article aims to explore the implications of degrowth for long-distance trade, using the multifaceted perspectives and disciplines which the term binds together. From a political ecology angle growth in the South has taken place at the cost of ‘dirty’ and material intensive production, allowing that richer countries specialize in clean/material extensive production. In terms of ecological economics the flow of primary commodities at the global level has been taking place from poor to rich countries, so that Southern (Northern) countries have become net exporters (importers) of primary products (Muradian and Martinez-Alier 2001). In terms of democracy/social justice there is a transfer of environmental costs from the Global North to the Global South (Martinez-Alier and O’Connor, 1996).
What proposals on trade could we imagine in the framework of degrowth, given it is impossible to talk about a reduction of long-distance trade without considering the diverse needs of export-dependent communities in the Global South, and reflect upon their imaginaries of social justice? It is impossible to talk about a reduction of long-distance trade without dealing with a number of internal contradictions (between consumption-based social status and concerns with environmental justice) of consumers in the Global North; or with the features of the external regime with its inherent structures of power. There is no single point of departure, but multiple (sometimes mutually contradictory) paths which merit exploration.

This media entry was a contribution to the special session „What are the degrowth implications for long-distance trade?“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.

Ethischer Welthandel: Eine Alternative zu Freihandel und Protektionismus

Author zum Buch: Die Krise der internationalen Handelspolitik ist eine Chance, das aktuelle System aus WTO, bilateralen Investitionsschutz- und Freihandelsabkommen (BITs) und Handelsschiedsgerichten (z. B. ICSID) grundlegend zu überdenken. Christian Felber entzaubert in seinem neuen Buch die „Freihandelsreligion“ und schlägt eine vollständige und kohärente Alternative vor. Ethischer Welthandel im Schoße der UNO. Handel wird im neuen Paradigma konsequent als Mittel betrachtet, das den eigentlichen Zielen der Politik dient: den Menschenrechten, nachhaltiger Entwicklung, Verteilungsgerechtigkeit, sozialer Zusammenhalt und kulturelle Vielfalt. Felber baut auf alternativen TheoretikerInnen wie Dani Rodrik, Ha-Joon Chang, Vandana Shiva, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Susan George oder George Monbiot auf und webt die Ansätze zu einem kohärenten Alternativmodell zusammen. Das multilaterale ethische Handelssystem soll, von der EU ausgehend, in der UNO angesiedelt sein und aus dem wichtigen, aber „soften“ Völkerrecht hartes und einklagbares machen. Damit geht es endlich zurück vom Washington Consensus zu einer gerechten und demokratischen Weltwirtschaftsordnung. Eine zentrale Rolle könnten dabei die Souveräne – die von der Handelspolitik in Nord und Süd betroffenen Menschen – spielen. Felbers Idee zu „kommunalen Handelskonventen“ gibt allen, die nach dem wichtigen Protest gegen TTIP und CETA in die Gestaltung gehen wollen, ein konkretes und lokal umsetzbares Werkzeug in die Hand.

ISBN 978-3-552-06338-9

Building Alternatives to Free Trade

Video of the panel “Building Alternatives to Free Trade” from the Solikon-Congress for Solidarity-based Economy and Transformation 2015 in Berlin.

Making the alliance to stop TTIP and all other “free trade” agreements while developing the fair and solidarity international trade. What impact do TTIP, TISA,TPP, EPAs and the ISDS mechanism have on local economies and food sovereignty? What is our response? A panel to debate how to join forces among the different social movements and Solidarity Economy initiatives, including Fair Trade, as well as the international institutions who promote the rights of the people vs the profit of the corporations.

Brid Brennan (TNI), Rudi Dalvai (World Fair Trade Organisation – WFTO), Jürgen Schwettmann (International Labour Organization – ILO), Florent Marcellesi (MoEP, EQUO), Christian Felber, Facilitated by: Monica Di Sisto (Fairwatch)

Degrowth of military-industrial complex – issues around reduction of arm trade and production

Poster by Clive Hambidge, Soraya Boyd and Jack Adams at the Second International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Barcelona with the title “Degrowth of military-industrial complex – issues around reduction of arm trade and production”.

International Economics: Theory and Policy

For courses in International Economics, International Finance, and International Trade

A balanced approach to theory and policy applications

International Economics: Theory and Policy provides engaging, balanced coverage of the key concepts and practical applications of the two main topic areas of the discipline. For both international trade and international finance, an intuitive introduction to theory is followed by detailed coverage of policy applications. With this new tenth edition, the author team of Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, renowned researcher Maurice Obstfeld, and Marc Melitz of Harvard University continues to set the standard for International Economics courses.
(Description by the publisher)

ISBN-13: 9780133425734

Die Freihandelsfalle

Bei den Verhandlungen für ein Freihandelsabkommen zwischen den USA und der EU werden neoliberale Dogmen weiter verfolgt, obwohl die Schattenseiten allgegenwärtig sind: Standortwettbewerb, Lohndumping, sinkende Standards und Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten in demokratischen Staaten.
In diesem AttacBasisText werden die möglichen Folgen für Europa und Deutschland für den Fall herausgearbeitet, dass die Verhandlungen um eine »Transatlantische Handels- und Investi­tionspartnerschaft« (TTIP) erfolgreich verlaufen.
Betroffen sind so unterschiedliche Bereiche wie Gentechnik, Landwirtschaft, Verbraucherschutz, Investitionsschutz, Finanzmärkte, Datenschutz oder das öffentliche Beschaffungswesen.
Die AutorInnen fordern ein »Alternatives Handelsmandat«, welches Menschenrechte, soziale Gerechtigkeit, Zukunftsfähigkeit und Demokratie als übergeordnete Prinzipien setzt. In der Leseprobe ist eine erste zusammenfassende Übersetzung des Alternativen Handelsmandats enthalten.
(Beschreibung des Verlags)

ISBN 978-3-89965-592-6