Emission Impossible: ‘Green Growth’ Is Wishful Thinking

  • Date: 31/05/19
  • Phys.org

A new study has found no absolute decoupling of CO2 emissions at a global level and concludes that green growth is a misguided objective.

A new study examines green growth policies as articulated in major reports by the World Bank, the OECD and the UN Environment Programme, and tests the theory against extant empirical evidence and models of the relationship between GDP and both material footprint and CO2 emissions.

The paper “Is Green Growth Possible?” is co-authored by Dr. Jason Hickel (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Prof Giorgos Kallis from ICTA-UAB, and has been published in the journal New Political Economy. 

For material footprint, the question pertains to whether we can achieve absolute decoupling of GDP from resource use. Their findings show that empirical projections show no absolute decoupling at a global scale, even under highly optimistic conditions. In addition, they suggest that, while some models show that it may be achieved in high-income nations under highly optimistic (and indeed unrealistic) conditions, this cannot be sustained in the long-term given limits to efficiency improvements.

These results assume current levels of GDP growth, of around 2-3 percent per year. They consider that it may be feasible to achieve absolute reductions in resource use with GDP growing at less than 1% per year. However, to achieve reductions rapid enough to get us down to safe thresholds will require degrowth strategies.

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Reference: Jason Hickel et al. Is Green Growth Possible?, New Political Economy (2019). DOI: 10.1080/13563467.2019.1598964

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