Degrowth Vienna 2020 – A legal approach to beyond GDP indicators: possibilities and limits

Presentation [part of the standard session “Institutional Change 1”]

How can law contribute to the use of indicators that measure progress in an alternative manner? What are the limits thereof? This session will explore legal definitions and operationalizations of “beyond Gross Domestic Product” metrics by examining concrete existing legislation.

Presenters: Norman Vander Putten (Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles)

Language: English with translation to German

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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

Post-Growth Conference, Brussels 2018 – Workshop Beyond GDP Growth

Chair: Helmut Scholz, MEP (GUE/NGL)
Panellists: Efi Achtsióglou (Greek Minister of Labour), Christian Felber (Economy for the Common Good), Leida Rijnhout (SDG Watch Steering Committee), Patrick ten Brink (European Environmental Bureau, Director of EU Policy), Joost Koorte (European Commission, DG EMPL, Director General)

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

Do Beyond GDP indicators initiated by powerful stakeholders have a transformative potential?

The last four decades have seen a proliferation of new indicators aiming to challenge GDP. But do they really produce new outcomes? By observing the rankings they produce (compared to those produced by GDP), the potential of 6 Beyond GDP indicators to suggest a way towards a more social and ecological society has been examined. The conclusion is that rankings from indicators initiated by powerful stakeholders are highly correlated with rankings according to GDP, demonstrating a low transformative potential.

Sustainability, Wellbeing and the Posthuman Turn

This book examines how the way we conceive of, or measure, the environment changes the way we interact with it. Thomas Smith posits that environmentalism and sustainable development have become increasingly post-political, characterised by abstraction, and quantification to an unprecedented extent. As such, the book argues that our ways of measuring both the environment, such as through sustainability metrics like footprints and Payments for Ecosystem Services, and society, through gross domestic product and wellbeing measures, play a constitutive and problematic role in how we conceive of ourselves in the world. Subsequently, as the quantified environmental approach drives a dualistic wedge between the human and non-human realms, in its final section the book puts forward recent developments in new materialism and feminist ethics of care as providing practical ways of re-founding sustainable development in a way that firmly acknowledges human-ecological relations. This book will be an invaluable reference for scholars and students in the fields of human geography, political ecology, and environmental sociology.

Is Degrowth the Only Way to Save the World?

Introduction: Unless us folks in rich countries drastically reduce our material living standards and distribute most of what we have to people living in poor countries, the world will come to an end. Or at least that’s the stark conclusion of a study published earlier this month in the journal Nature Sustainability. The researchers who wrote it, led by the Leeds University ecological economist Dan O’Neill, think the way to prevent the apocalypse is “degrowth.”

Vice, pestilence, war, and “gigantic inevitable famine” were the planetary boundaries set on human population by the 18th-century economist Robert Thomas Malthus. The new study gussies up old-fashioned Malthusianism by devising a set of seven biophysical indicators of national environmental pressure, which they then link to 11 indicators of social outcomes. The aim of the exercise is to concoct a “safe and just space” for humanity.

The economics of enough: Dan O’Neill at TEDxOxbridge

Is economic growth always a good thing? Why are people in countries like the US and UK not happier or working fewer hours when GDP has tripled since 1950? Dan O’Neill’s thought-provoking talk exposes the pitfalls of economic growth and hints at alternative ways to measure progress.

Dan O’Neill is a lecturer in ecological economics at the University of Leeds, and the chief economist at the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE). His work focuses on the changes that would be needed to achieve a prosperous non-growing economy, and alternative ways of measuring progress besides GDP. He is co-author (with Rob Dietz) of Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, an international best-seller which has recently been made into a short film. When he isn’t doing research or teaching, Dan enjoys hiking in the Yorkshire Dales and singing songs about the misguided pursuit of economic growth.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Lernen lassen – Abenteuer Bildung

Was bedeutet heute eigentlich Bildung? Brauchen wir wirklich nur mehr Geld, um besser zu werden? Besser worin? Im Anhäufen von Lehrstoff? Im Repetieren von Formeln? Im Aneinanderreihen von Leistungsnachweisen oder im Trainieren von Fertigkeiten, die vielleicht schon morgen gar keiner mehr braucht?
Bildung hat etwas damit zu tun, wie wir die Welt begreifen. Sie beginnt nach der Geburt, und sie endet mit dem Eintritt ins Erwerbsleben noch lange nicht. Sie geht uns alle an. Jede Altersgruppe, jede Nationalität und jede soziale Schicht, Lehrer wie Schüler, Eltern wie Studenten, Unternehmer wie Politiker. Bildung kostet. Aber sie erfordert viel weniger Geld als Einsicht. Die Einsicht, dass es heute eben nicht mehr reicht, mit einem möglichst gut gefüllten Konto an Know-how ins Berufsleben zu starten, um die nächsten 30 Jahre davon zu zehren. Die Einsicht, dass haufenweise Informationen noch kein Wissen sind und das Sammeln von Fleißkärtchen bis Mitte 20 noch keine Bildungskarrieren. Dass Noten nicht helfen, sich in der kompliziert gewordenen Welt zurechtzufinden und seinen Weg zu suchen. Dass Wissenserwerb kein Privileg der Jugend ist, jede Bildungskarriere ihren Anfang aber sehr wohl im Kleinkindalter nimmt. Dass Alte ihren Mangel an modernem Fachwissen im Zweifel mühelos durch Erfahrung wettmachen können. Dass Hauptschüler nicht selten die besseren Manager sind. Ausländerkinder nicht per se die schlechteren Schüler. Qualitätsprüfer keine Feinde. Denkende Mitarbeiter keine Bedrohung. Neue Ideen kein Angriff. Und mutige Lehrer ein Segen.
Über all das haben sich die Autoren dieses Buches in ihren Geschichten Gedanken gemacht. Die Texte sind schon einmal in Publikationen der brand-eins-Medien AG veröffentlicht worden, aber sie haben über die Zeit nichts an Wert verloren. Wir haben sie für brand-eins-Thema aktualisiert und neu zusammengestellt. Als Plädoyer: für Lernen, Denken-Dürfen, Wissen-Wollen – und für einen neuen Bildungsbegriff.
(Beschreibung des Verlags)


ISBN: 978-3-86850-657-0

The World After GDP – Economics, Politics and International Relations in the Post-Growth Era

GDP is much more than a simple statistic. It has become the overarching benchmark of success and a powerful ordering principle at the heart of the global economy. But the convergence of major economic, social and environmental crises has exposed the flaws of our economic system which values GDP above all else as a measure of prosperity and growth.

In this provocative and inspiring new book, political economist Lorenzo Fioramonti sets out his vision of a world after GDP. Focusing on pioneering research on alternative metrics of progress, governance innovation and institutional change, he makes a compelling case for the profound and positive transformations that could be achieved through a post-GDP system of development. From a new role for small business, households and civil society to a radical evolution of democracy and international relations, Fioramonti sets out a combination of top-down reforms and bottom-up pressures whose impact, he argues, would be unprecedented, making it possible to build a more equitable, sustainable and happy society.
(Description by the publishers)

ISBN: 9781509511341 (Hardback) / 9781509511358 (Paperback) / 9781509511389 (Open eBook)

CO2 als Maß aller Dinge – Die unheimliche Macht von Zahlen in der globalen Umweltpolitik

Der Klimawandel ist real, von globaler Reichweite und Bedeutung. Doch diese Bedrohung wird seltsamerweise fast ausschließlich als ein Problem zu hoher CO2-Emissionen wahrgenommen. Diese Publikation macht deutlich, dass die Art und Weise, wie wir ein Problem beschreiben, weitgehend festlegt, welche Schritte und Maßnahmen wir zur Lösung dieses Problems in Erwägung ziehen.

Am Beispiel des metrischen Denkens in der Klimapolitik lässt sich erkennen, wie zwar sehr viel neues Wissen hervorgebracht wird, gleichzeitig aber auch etliches verloren geht. Die Autor/innen berichtigen dafür die berühmte Formel, wonach man nur managen kann, was in Zahlen aufbereitet ist.
(Beschreibung der Heinrich Böll Stiftung)

Die Broschüre kann kostenlos auf der Internetseite der Heinrich Böll Stiftung heruntergeladen werden.

ISBN: 978-3-86928-152-0

Why less is more – There’s only one way to avoid climate catastrophe: ‘de-growing’ our economy

Jason Hickel argues in an articel that Degrowth is the only chance to avoid catastrophic climate change

UBI could increase human well-being and help save the planet

Introduction: Anthropologist Jason Hickel believes basic income could be part of the solution to this problem of the pervasiveness of the growth mentality. He presents UBI as forming part of a strategy of “planned de-growth,” which he believes will “increase human well-being and happiness while reducing our economic footprint.”

Our addiction to economic growth is killing us

Description by BBC Newsnight: In this Viewsnight, anthropologist Jason Hickel asks if economic growth really makes our lives better. He is the author of The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions.