From limits to growth to the green economy – Erik Gomez-Baggethun (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research)Sunday 12th July, 12.00-13.30 – Cerbère (France)
More than four decades since the launch of a global agenda for environmental governance, international policy has failed to reverse climate change, resource depletion and the generalized decline of biodiversity and ecological life support systems. In this lecture we will trace the economic roots of current environmental problems and examine the evolution of sustainability policy since the publication of Limits to Growth and the celebration of the first Earth summit in Stockholm in 1972 to the publication of UNEP’s Green Economy report and the celebration of the last Earth summit in Rio 2012. The emphasis will be in the evolving framing of the relations between growth and the environment and the role of markets and states in the sustainability policy agenda. We will examine influential policy documents and Earth summit declarations since the early 1970s. Three major changes in international sustainability discourse will be discussed and critically examined: i) a shift from growth versus the environment to growth for the environment approach, ii) a shift in focus from direct public regulation to market-based instruments, and iii) a shift from a political to a primarily technocratic discourse. We note that attempts in sustainability policy to address the conflict between growth and the environment have pulled back severely since the 1970s and discuss the observed patterns of change in relation to changes in the balance of political and ideological forces over the studied period. We conclude discussing new perspectives for the sustainability debate on growth and the environment brought about by the degrowth movement and the role it may play, in coalition with its post-growth and environmental justice. allies, in reversing the above identified trends, bringing planetary boundaries and distributive justice back to the international sustainability agenda.
Background reading material: Gomez-Baggethun, Erik and Jose Manuel Naredo. In Press. Growth and the environment: Recession of international environmental policy between Stockholm 1972 and Rio 2012, Sustainability Science.