Nef (the new economics foundation) has recently released “The Happy Planet Index: 2012 Report,” nef’s third global report based on one of the leading global measures of ‘sustainable well-being’, the Happy Planet Index (HPI).
HPI is a measure of progress that uses global data on experienced well-being, life expectancy, and Ecological Footprint to generate an index revealing which countries are most efficient at producing long, happy lives for their inhabitants, whilst maintaining the conditions for future generations to do the same. This efficiency is expressed in the number of Happy Life Years (life expectancy adjusted for experienced well-being) achieved per unit of resource use.
The results in this year’s report show that we are still not living on a ‘happy planet’ (similarly as the results in the past reports -published in 2006 and 2009 – suggested). At the present time, no country is able to combine success across the three goals of high life expectancy, high experienced well-being and living within environmental limits. The positive news is that at least some countries, like Costa Rica, are coming close.
In fact, Costa Rica tops the Happy Planet Index for the second time in a row. It has the second highest life expectancy in the Americas, experienced well-being higher than many richer nations, and a per capita Ecological Footprint one third the size of the USA’s. Norway, in 29th place out of 151 countries, is the highest ranking Western European nation, just behind New Zealand in 28th place. The UK ranks 41st and the USA ranks 105th out of 151 countries.
Nic Marks of nef highlights that “overall, the HPI reflects the fact that while the challenges faced by rich resource-intensive nations and those with high levels of poverty and deprivation may be very different, the end goal is the same: to create long and happy lives that don’t cost the Earth.” He also notes that “if things are to improve we need new official measures of progress” [italics added]. This is why nef came up with the Happy Planet Charter alongside the report to underline the urgent need for better measures of progress. More information on this can be obtained at the Happy Planet Index website.
Happy Planet Index website
The World Bank has released a new report, titled “Inclusive Green Growth – The Pathway to Sustainable Development,” at the Global Green Growth Summit in Seoul in early May.
The report challenges governments to change their approach to growth policies, measuring not only what is being produced, but what is being used up and polluted in the process. It argues that sustained growth is necessary to achieve the urgent development needs of the world’s poor and that there is substantial scope for growing cleaner without growing slower. It also noted that green growth requires improved indicators to monitor economic performance.
The report focuses on 5 main points:
- Greening growth – it is suggested this is necessary, efficient, and affordable, and critical to achieving sustainable development
- Chief obstacles to greening growth, such as political barriers, entrenched behaviors and norms, and a lack of financing instruments
- Multi-disciplinary solutions to overcome constraints and ensure progress
- Green growth ‘variability’ – it is pointed out that strategies will vary across countries
- Green growth not being inherently inclusive – it is highlighted that green growth policies must be carefully designed to be inclusive, by maximizing benefits for, and minimizing costs to, the poor and most vulnerable to avoid irreversible negative impacts
At the Global Green Growth Summit, the Government of Korea announced a partnership with the World Bank Group and pledged $40 million to further promote green growth.
Links: World Bank News
Oxfam has released an interesting discussion paper in February 2012, written by its senior researcher Kate Raworth (with the support of colleagues) and titled “A safe and just space for humanity – Can we live within the doughnut?”
The paper presents a single visual framework – shaped like a doughnut – that represents a space in which humanity can thrive. This doughnut-like area is defined by a set of 9 planetary boundaries as proposed by a group of leading Earth-system scientists in 2009 (published in Nature by Rockström et al., Sept 2009). Raworth combined this “Planetary Boundaries” framework with 11 social boundaries, based on the 11 dimensions of human deprivation that emerged from the issues raised by governments in their Rio+20 submissions.
The author argues that “moving into the safe and just space for humanity means eradicating poverty to bring everyone above the social foundation, and reducing global resource use, to bring it back within planetary boundaries.” She also suggests that the “doughnut” provides an easy-to understand framework showing, for instance, that we need to eradicate poverty and inequity for all, within the means of the planet’s limited resources. The data on hunger, energy and income provided in the paper illustrate that bringing everyone alive today above the social foundation need not stress planetary boundaries and it is highlighted that the real source of stress is excessive resource use by roughly the richest 10 percent of people in the world.
The paper touches also on the aim of economic growth and traditional growth policies (based on GDP) in relation to the “doughnut” concept. The author argues that the economy’s over-arching aim should be to bring humanity into the safe and just space – inside the doughnut – and to promote increasing human well-being there. The paper concludes by stating that “the critical economic question is whether or not global GDP growth can be harnessed as a tool for moving into the doughnut – or whether a different approach to economic development is needed.”
This Oxfam Discussion Paper intends to encourage public debate and the author welcomes any feedback on this document. Comments can be added to the author’s Oxfam blog until 30 June 2012.
Links: Blog (with link to the download of the full Oxfam Discussion Paper)