Now closed: Sustainability and Growth
Welcome to this e-discussion on Sustainability and Growth, which will run from today, 31 January, until 15 March 2013. This e-discussion is the fourth in a series organized as part of the Global Thematic Consultation on Growth and Employment, providing inputs into the post-2015 development agenda.
Economic growth is an essential means to support improvements in people’s wellbeing, from poverty reduction, employment and health, to education and quality of life – but the quality of growth matters. Natural resources and biodiversity also contribute important goods and services to human well-being and economies both directly and indirectly – clean air and water, healthy food, forest products, minerals, these are a few examples. Healthy natural ecosystems support human well-being through various functions, including water purification and flow regulation, climate regulation and carbon storage, biodiversity habitat, waste absorption and remediation, to name a few. These natural goods and services which support lives, livelihoods, and economies are often designated as ‘natural capital’, partially analogous to man-made capital in the form of machinery and technology and human capital in the form of an educated and healthy population.
There is substantial evidence and concern, however, that continued and accelerating environmental degradation caused by growing human activities and the consumption and resource use associated with high and rising living standards could threaten the natural resource and environmental basis of human well-being. Poor people and communities that depend heavily on natural resources for their livelihoods and well-being are particularly vulnerable to their depletion.
Industrialization has brought significant economic and social benefits to many countries. But it has also contributed to environmental damage, including through greenhouse gas emissions. Despite some progress, decoupling consumption and production from fossil-fuel energy use remains a major challenge. Climate change is already having significant impacts on food and agricultural production, human health, biodiversity and ecosystem functions, and the physical infrastructure on which societies depend.
One response to these challenges has been to propose a new growth model that would put economies on a path to sustainable development – “inclusive green growth”. This raises a several questions that can launch the discussion:
- Can growth be good for both people and the planet? If so how? Are there examples of how people in your country or your community are solving the problems of sustainability and economic growth?
- What kind of policies can move us away from a “grow now/clean up later” approach to industrialization and economic development?
- Where growth is likely to increase the pressure on the environment, how can we keep that pressure to a minimum, while still benefiting from the growth itself?
- To what extent is the depletion of natural resources affecting livelihoods of people in your community, country?
Farmers Stock Market The Nakasero Farmers Market in Uganda. This market plays an important role in the development of the local economy. A significant number of microfinance clients sell and buy their products here, as in the stock market.
Photograph taken in ANGOL, Sent by Rolando Villanueva
We welcome your response to these questions drawing on your experience, ideas or research. In a few weeks we will share additional follow-up questions for discussion.
We look forward to your active participation and encourage you to inform your colleagues and networks about this discussion.
Anil Markandya, University of Bath and Basque Centre for Climate Change
David O’Connor, UNDESA
Tim Scott, UNDP