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Green agrowth: removing the GDP-growth constraint on human progress

Jeroen van den Bergh

Chapter 9 in Handbook on Growth and Sustainability, 2017, pp 181-210 from Edward Elgar Publishing

Abstract: The debate on growth versus the environment is usually summarized as optimists believing in limitless growth versus pessimists seeing environmental and resource limits to growth. This opposition defines the main strategies, namely, striving for green growth versus some anti-growth approach. This chapter argues that we should not feel obliged to choose between these polarized opinions, as there is a third option, namely, the “agrowth†strategy (not to be confused with zero-growth). It offers a way out of the impasse that characterizes the growth-versus-environment debate by proposing to be agnostic or neutral about gross domestic product (GDP) (per capita) growth. The chapter defines this agrowth strategy, motivates its rationality, and examines its premises, implications, advantages and political feasibility. It is argued that both anti-growth and pro-growth goals represent avoidable, unnecessary constraints on our search for human betterment, which lead to lower realizations of social welfare than are feasible. The idea of green agrowth will be discussed too, notably in the context of preventing dangerous climate change. Finally, a pragmatic approach to selecting alternative macro-level indicators for progress is outlined.

Keywords: Economics and Finance; Environment; Politics and Public Policy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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