CapGlobalCarbon from a Post-Growth Perspective


Samuel Alexander from the Simplicity Collective has written a great article in which he first identifies the need for a transition to a post growth society and secondly explores specific policies and institutions that would fit this post-growth framework. The CapGlobalCarbon team is excited to see that the second policy recommendation on the list is remarkably close to the solution we are promoting and developing.  An excerpt from the article:

“2. Reduce overconsumption via diminishing ‘resource caps’: One of the defining problems with the growth paradigm is that the developed nations now have resource and energy demands that could not possibly be universalised to all nations. The quantitative ‘scale’ of our economies is overblown. It follows that any transition to a just and sustainable world requires the developed nations to stop overconsuming the world’s scarce resources and reduce resource and energy demands significantly. Although in theory efficiency gains in production provide one pathway to reduced demand, the reality is that within a growth economy, efficiency gains tend to be reinvested in more growth and consumption, rather than reducing impact. After all, efficiency gains can reduce the costs of production, making a commodity cheaper, thus incentivising increased consumption of the commodity. In order to contain this well documented phenomenon (for a review, see Alexander, 2015: Ch. 1), a post-growth economy would need to introduce diminishing resource caps – that is, well defined limits to resource consumption – to ensure that efficiency gains are directed into reducing overall resource consumption, not directed into more growth. In fact, diminishing resource caps would actually encourage and stimulate efficiency improvements, because producers would know that there would be increasing competition over key resources and so would be driven to eliminate waste and create a ‘circular economy’ where products at the end of their life are reused in the next phase of production. In an age of ecological overshoot, the overconsuming developed nations need to achieve significant absolute reductions in resource demand (absolute decoupling) not just productivity gains (relative decoupling). Determining where to set the resource caps, how quickly they should be reduced (e.g. 3% per year to allow markets to adjust), and where they should be aiming to stabilise (e.g. an equal per capita share), are open questions that can be debated. Formulating a workable policy in this domain would require, among other things, a highly sophisticated and detailed scientific accounting of resource stocks and flows of the economy. But the first step is simply to recognise that, in the developed nations, diminishing resource caps are a necessary part of achieving the ‘degrowth’ in resource consumption that is required for justice and sustainability.” – Samuel Alexander, Policies for a post-growth economy

To Clarify: CapGlobalCarbon has taken an agnostic view towards the issue of economic growth. We acknowledge it means a great deal to many people but do not see a need to either join or oppose the growth rhetoric. Whether a cap on fossil fuel production is compatible or at odds with economic growth depends on your viewpoint on the potential of absolute decoupling. If you think the economy can decouple quicker than that the cap tightens, we’ve contributed to sustainable growth by taking care of the rebound effect. If you think absolute decoupling is a myth, we’ve helped to establish a degrowth economy. Regardless of which side of this economic debate you look at it, CapGlobalCarbon is a viable and effective solution.

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