OECD World Forum 2012 confirms that world has embraced new measures of progress Reply

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/

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Inclusive Wealth Report 2012: UN’s new approach to measuring the sustainability of countries Reply

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

“Green Growth” getting stronger: GGGI to become an international organization Reply

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

World Happiness Report: ‘Happiness’ no longer seen as too vague for government policies Reply

The first “World Happiness Report” has been released at the UN High Level Meeting on Happiness in early April (Read more about the meeting here). The report, published by the Earth Institute and co-edited by the institute’s director, Jeffrey Sachs, reflects on the current state of happiness around the world and on the possible approaches to systematic measurements of happiness of a person as well as a whole nation.

The authors underline that there has been a shift from seeing “happiness” as far too subjective and vague to be used as a criterium for government policy to being seriously discussed at government meetings and beyond.  This is due to the fact that the research into happiness has shown that, “even though indeed a subjective experience, happiness can be objectively measured, assessed, correlated with observable brain functions, and related to the characteristics of an individual and the society.”

The report also presents three happiness case studies:

  • the Bhutanese Gross National Happiness measure
  • Measuring subjective well-being in the UK; and
  • The current development of OECD Guidelines on the Measurement of Subjective Well-being to be released towards the end of 2012.

The authors of the report really see happiness coming on the center stage and suggest four steps to improve policy-making in this area: 1. measure happiness, 2. explain happiness, 3. put happiness at the center of analysis, and 4. translate well-being research into design and delivery of services.

Links: http://www.earth.columbia.edu/articles/view/2960

Global Transition 2012: International initiative on ‘New Economy’ Reply

The Global Transition 2012 is an international network of organisations and leading thinkers striving for “an alternative global green economy that maximises well-being, operates within environmental limits  and is capable of coping and adapting to global environmental change.” The initiative has been introduced and supported by the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, the new economics foundation (nef) and the New Economics Institute, with partnership with other organisations such as the Green Economy Coalition and BioRegional. The current focus of the initiative is to “grow the network of organisations from now, in the lead up to Rio+20 [United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, 2012] and beyond.”

On their website, The Global Transition 2012 initiative publishes short blog articles from leading thinkers, information on events related to the Rio+20 conference, as well as series of ‘Challenge Papers’ on key topic areas covering: The Green Economy, Beyond GDP, Global Inequality, One Planet Living, The Blue Economy, Energy Resources and Services, Food Security, Managing Natural Capital, Global Finance and Banking, Green Jobs and Skills, and Trade.

‘The Gren Economy’ paper by nef urges that “we must devise and manage a rapid economic transition.” The authors propose that new economic models maximising human well-being, but at the same time working within the Earth’s environmental boundaries, need to be implemented. The paper “puts forward 6 challenges to lay the foundations for [the needed] systemic change: 1. Develop a national transition plan that puts countries on paths to operate within planetary boundaries, and on timescales sufficiently quick to preserve key, ecological life support functions; 2. Don’t start from a growth perspective; 3. Agree to develop and implement new measures of economic success; 4. Commit to reduce income and wealth inequalities between and within nations; 5. Put fiscal policy and public expenditure centre stage in managing economic transition; and 6. Recapture the financial sector for the public good.”

‘The Beyond GDP: Measuring Our Progress’ paper co-authored by nef, Global Footprint Network and National Secretary for Planning and Development, Ecuador, then focusses on ways of measuring environmental sustainability and well-being. The authors “call for governments around the world to: 1. Amend their national accounting systems to align what they measure with what really matters; and 2. Use those measures as a guide for policy and political action.”

In connection with the Global Transition 2012, the initiative has also developed ‘The Global Transition to a New Economy’ project. The key of this project is an interactive map of already existing projects and initiatives that can be put under the umbrella of ‘New Economy’.

Links: http://globaltransition2012.org/, http://www.gtne.org/