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Green Agrowth as a Third Option: Removing the GDP-Growth Constraint on Human Progress. WWWforEurope Policy Paper No. 19

Jeroen van den Bergh

in WIFO Studies from WIFO

Abstract: The debate on growth versus the environment is usually summarised 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. In this paper I argue that we should not feel obliged to choose between these polarised opinions, as there is in fact a third option. I call this the "agrowth" strategy, and it offers a way out of the impasse that characterises the growth-versus-environment debate. I will define this agrowth strategy, motivate its rationality, and examine its premises, implications, advantages, political feasibility and practical steps. I suggest that an agrowth strategy follows logically from accepting the shortcomings of GDP (per capita) as an indicator of social welfare. It will be graphically shown that both anti-growth and pro-growth goals represent avoidable, unnecessary constraints on our search for human betterment, which lead to lower realisations of social welfare than are in fact feasible. I will further discuss the idea of green agrowth, notably in the context of avoiding dangerous climate change. Finally, a pragmatic approach to selecting alternative macro indicators is proposed.

Date: 2015 Written 2015-01-21
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