At a World Forum of leading economists, chief national statisticians, and many other experts, organized by the OECD and the Government of India, it became clear that new ways of measuring overall progress — in parallel to, or even in replacement of, the GDP — have now became mainstream.
Speakers [including Alan AtKisson, lead author of Life Beyond Growth] reported on dozens of projects at the national government level to measure national wellbeing, by both objective and subjective means, and sometimes the two in combination. While challenges remain, both technical and political, alternative measurements have achieved a level of momentum and global critical mass that appears irreversible. The indicators are also grappling with system sustainability issues such as future risk (in general terms), and with the factors and policies that produce better outcomes, using these new measures.
Speakers also outlined the needs, both political and research-oriented, for further development. For example, environmental measures still lack the robustness needed to “dialogue” effectively with the GDP, said the European Commissioner for Environment, Karl Falkenberg. And measures of social wealth are still far from parity with measures of economic wealth in technical terms.
But the direction of change is now well-established. Materials from this conference, including speaker presentations, are available at the conference website: http://www.oecd.org/site/worldforumindia/
Japan for Sustainability (“JFS”) reports that over 22 local governments are now in the process of developing new measures of well-being, happiness, or “true wealth,” including both cities and prefectural governments. These projects include the cities of Kyoto and Sapporo (the capital of Hokkaido), Arakawa City in Tokyo, and a group of 13 prefectures who are jointly collaborating to produce a “Local Hope Index.” These results are reported in the context of Japan for Sustainability’s survey of 101 local governments.
JFS is a non-governmental organization that is closely allied with the Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy, and Society (ISHES), sponsor of the Life Beyond Growth report.
For information on the Japanese local government happiness initatives, see this archived issue of the JFS newsletter:
For general information about JFS: http://www.japanfs.org/en/
During the opening of the Development Dialog on “Macroeconomic Policies for the Future We Want,” United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, both stressed that future policymaking should be focused on job creation and protection of the environment.
Jan Eliasson called for a “far-reaching vision” and said that it is important to discuss integrated policies that aim at “sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth.”
Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser then highlighted that it was particularly important to give full consideration to an effective integration of macro-economic policymaking into the development agenda that must be developed after the 2015 term of the Millenium Development Goals effort.
At the end of the gathering, participants agreed an outcome document which called for a wide range of actions, such as beginning the process to establish Sustainable Development Goals.
Link: UN News Centre
The Green Economy Coalition (GEC) has produced a paper summarizing the current situation in the growing field of ‘green economy’ and ‘green growth.’ This post-Rio+20 assessment is intended as a working draft for consultation and the GEC welcomes any feedback and insights.
The paper, titled “Surveying the ‘Green Economy’ and ‘Green Growth’ Landscape,” examines the current key players (from international institutions, through governments and the civil society to business) as well as the emerging trends and developments shaping the green economy landscape.
The paper concludes that there has been a rapid shift in the ‘green growth’ and ‘green economy’ agendas with even some mainstream economist and finance industries seeing an opportunity in green growth as a way out of economic stagnation. The paper further highlights that Rio+20 provided a much needed space for discussions on ‘green economy’ and that further UN discussions on this topic are vital for the international policy agenda.
The GEC also proposes that it is “critical for multi-stakeholder groups to work together to define and own the wider understanding of green economy – as one that tackles poverty and inequity and one that protects our natural systems.” It calls on coalitions and alliances to use their collective network, influence and experience to both complement and challenge the emerging agendas.
Link: GEC paper – working draft for consultation
The Government of Himachal Pradesh (HP), a mountain state in India, has been granted a US$ 100 million development policy loan from the World Bank to move towards an environmentally sustainable model of economic growth.
The loan to “Promote Inclusive Green Growth and Sustainable Development” will support the local government in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change. The focus of the support program will be on the state’s key economic areas – energy, watershed management, industry and tourism.
Since Himachal Pradesh is one of the country’s main sources of clean hydropower energy, the program will specifically support the protection of watersheds in the mountainous region and the development of sustainable hydropower.
A second development policy loan is expected to follow, with funding from the Clean Technology Fund (CTF).
Link: World Bank Press Release
Here, we list some of the major upcoming events in the areas of ‘New Economics’ and/or ‘Happiness/Well-being’ to be held in the next three months. As you will see, there are a number of interesting gatherings coming up this late summer/autumn.
“Happiness, Compassion and Sustainability – A Strategic Gathering,” 24-25 August 2012, Seatle, US; at this conference, participants will learn about the vital new worldwide movement for happiness, find out about how to use the Happiness Initiative to improve your community, learn about the connection between happiness and sustainability, help plan “Pursuit of Happiness Day” (April 13) for 2013, and hear prominent authors; event sponsored by The Happiness Initiative, Take Back Your Time, The Compassionate Action Network and the Communications Department of Seattle University. http://www.happycounts.org/conf2012
Second Global Happiness and Well-being Movement webinar, 21 September 2012; speaker: Jon Hall, of the United Nations Millenium Development Goals, http://www.happycounts.org/global-happiness-and-wellbeing-movement
3rd International Conference on Degrowth, 19-23 Sept 2012, Venice, Italy; The general theme of the conference Venezia 2012 on Degrowth and ecological sustainability and social justice is “The big transition: Degrowth as a passage of civilization,” http://www.venezia2012.it/?lang=en
3rd Global Green Growth Forum – Copenhagen, 8-9 October 2012, theme “Resource Efficiency and Growth,” http://www.globalgreengrowthforum.com/news/3gf-in-the-media
2nd International Growth in Transition conference “How should we grow?” – Vienna, 8-10 October 2012, http://www.growthintransition.eu/conference2012
The United Nations University International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (UNU-IHDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with the UN Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC) and the Natural Capital Project have released a new report, titled “Inclusive Wealth Report 2012” (IWR 2012) at the Rio+20 conference.
The report is first in a series of biennial reports aiming to track the sustainability of countries using a newly developed measure, the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI). The IWI aims to go beyond the present generation of short-term economic and development measures, such as the gross domestic product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI). The IWI has been developed to capture the full wealth of nations by looking into country’s capital assets, including manufactured, human and natural capital, and its corresponding values.
In the Inclusive Wealth Report 2012, twenty countries were assessed using the IWI over a period of 19 years (1990-2008). Together they represent more than half of the world population and almost three quarters of world GDP and include high, middle, and low-income economies on all continents.
Some of the key findings of the IWR 2012 included:
- 70 percent of countries assessed present a positive Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) per capita growth, indicating sustainability.
- High population growth with respect to IWI growth rates caused 25 percent of countries assessed to become unsustainable.
- While 19 out of the 20 countries experienced a decline in natural capital, six of them also saw a decline in their inclusive wealth, thus following an unsustainable track.
- Human capital has increased in every country, being the prime capital form that offsets the decline in natural capital in most economies.
- 25 percent of assessed countries, which showed a positive trend when measured by GDP per capita and the HDI, were found to have a negative IWI.
- The primary driver of the difference in performance was the decline in natural capital.
Based on these key findings, the report offers a set of recommendations to national-level policy-makers. It calls on countries to:
- Build up their investments in renewable natural capital
- Mainstream the Inclusive Wealth Index within planning and developing ministries
- Support/speed up the process of moving from an income-based accounting framework to a wealth accounting framework
- Move away from GDP per capita
- Establish research programs for valuing key components of natural capital, particularly ecosystem services.
The next issue of the Inclusive Wealth Report is expected to be released in 2014 with a special focus on social capital.
Link: UNU-IHDP Inclusive Wealth Report news
Representatives of sixteen countries have gathered on June 20 at a side-event of the Rio+20 conference – Signing Ceremony for the Agreement on the Establishment of GGGI – to officially establish the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) as an international organization. The signatories of the Establishment Agreement – Australia, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Guyana, Kiribati, Korea, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, the Philippines, Qatar, the UAE, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam – will become the founding members of GGGI when it launches as a new international organization in October this year.
GGGI has been operational since 2010 with headquarters in Seoul, Republic of Korea. GGGI’s main aim has been to pioneer “Green Growth” as a new model of environmentally sustainable economic growth and its conversion into an international organization is a step forward to spread this economic model further around the world.
GGGI partners with developing countries and emerging economies, including least developed countries, to develop green growth strategies and plans that deliver poverty reduction, job creation and social inclusion in an environmentally sustainable way. The Institute currently works in ten countries, including Brazil, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Thailand and UAE, and is expected to expand its set of partner countries in coming years.
Links: GGGI website
The Ecologic Institute, a private not-for-profit think tank, has released a new report on resource efficiency indicators and their potential use for measuring progress towards sustainable industries. The report, titled “Integrating resource efficiency, greening of industrial production and green industries – scoping of and recommendations for effective indicators,” is the outcome of work undertaken by the Ecologic Institute as part of the process of establishing a Green Industry Platform by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in 2012.
The authors of the report note that there currently appears to be a gap concerning indicators for measuring progress towards sustainable industries and sustainable industrial development (including the greening of industries, progress achieved in green industries, and greater resource efficiency in industrial production) and this report aims to contribute to filling this gap.
The report uses the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as an organizing framework for systematic evaluation of the existing indicators as a measure of resource efficiency. The 10 most promising indicators considered in this study are:
- Environmentally weighted material consumption (EWC)
- Energy intensity by sector
- Production based CO2 productivity
- Water consumption by sector
- Sustainable Process Index (SPI)
- Water abstraction rates and water stress
- Corporations’ turnover, value added and exports of the environmental goods and services sector
- Resource Productivity / Material Productivity
- Total Material Consumption (TMC)
- Ecological Footprint (EF)
The authors suggest that since there exist many different aspects of industrial production it is only logical to consider building a basket of indicators that jointly give a more comprehensive picture than any of the indicators could give alone. They propose 4 different dimensions of sustainable industrial development to be part of the basket, namely:
- Protection of critical environmental goods and services;
- Minimal environmental impacts;
- Efficient resource-use; and
- Social and economic aspects of industrial production.
Based on the reviews conducted in report the following indicators are proposed to be included in the basket:
- EMC (or eco-efficiency or overall environmental impact indicator) to capture environmental impacts;
- Energy intensity by sector and production-based CO 2 productivity to cover the critical environmental areas energy and climate change;
- Water productivity by sector and water stress to capture resource efficiency for a second critical environmental resource; and
- Resource productivity (or TMC over GDP) to capture resource efficiency.
The authors note that the social aspects of sustainable industry have not been within the scope of their analysis, but should be considered in the development of the basket. They also highlight that this scoping study did not provide the necessary frame to develop a fully fledged analysis or road-test the proposed indicator basket and that such research tasks should be undertaken in followup projects under the auspices of UNIDO.
Link: Ecologic Institute download site of the report
In a long interview published in Le Monde, a prominent Green politician in France clarified the position of his party — which holds two ministerial posts in the new government of President François Hollande — on the subject of growth.
Interviewer: What is the position of Europe Ecology-The Greens on degrowth?
Jean-Vincent Placé: We are for the degrowth of polluting and energy-devouring industries, intensive agriculture, air and road transportation, and if we are for growth, it is the growth of happiness!
[Original Q&A for French speakers – Q: Quelle est la position d’EELV sur la décroissance? A: Nous sommes pour la décroissance des industries polluantes et énergivores, de l’agriculture intensive ou du transport aérien et routier, et si nous sommes pour la croissance, c’est la croissance du bonheur !]
Jean-Vincent Placé is a French Senator representing Essone (the southern part of the Paris metropolitan area) and president of the first group of green parliamentarians in France.
Le Monde, 25 June 2012