Prosperous nations fail to balance economic growth with international climate goals. A new study published in The Lancet argues that talk of “green growth” is misleading, because these countries are failing to cut their emissions sufficiently.
Researchers from the Universities of Leeds and Barcelona have found that no prosperous country has been able to achieve “green growth”: an economy that grows within the limits of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Historically, there has been a strong correlation between economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions. And if GDP goes up, more emissions will go up, too. Some high-income countries have succeeded in separating the two issues: growing the economy while reducing their carbon footprint. But no country is able to do so by cutting emissions to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
27 times more
to Stady It identifies eleven rich countries that achieved separation between 2013 and 2019: Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Calling such insufficient emissions reductions green growth is highly misleading and greenwashing.
The analysis shows that emissions reductions in those countries are well below the percentages required to comply with the Paris Agreement.
Under current conditions, it would take the 11 countries an average of more than 200 years to reduce their emissions to almost zero. By doing so, they would total more than 27 times their fair share of the global carbon budget. This is the amount of carbon dioxide that we are allowed to emit in total so that we can limit global warming to a livable level.
“There is nothing green about this. It is a recipe for climate disruption and more climate injustice. Calling such insufficient reductions in emissions green growth is deeply misleading, it is greenwashing,” says the study’s lead author. Jeffrey Vogel.
“If green growth is to be in line with the climate goals and equity principle of the Paris Agreement, it is clear that high-income countries have not achieved anything close to green growth. Moreover, it is unlikely that they will be able to achieve this in the future,” says the expert. environmental economist.
To be clear: between 2013 and 2019, the 11 countries achieved an annual emissions reduction of less than 2%, according to the Paris targets, and an average annual reduction of 30% should be achieved by 2025.
However, it must be said that the countries surveyed are the best high-income performers. Most other rich countries fared even worse, many of which increased their emissions between 2013 and 2019.
Continued economic growth in high-income countries runs counter to the goal of avoiding catastrophic climate change and upholding principles of equity that should protect development in low-income countries. In other words, increasing economic growth in high-income countries is harmful, dangerous, and unfair.
“Achieving more economic growth in high-income countries is harmful, dangerous and unfair.”
Therefore, the researchers recommend that rich countries adopt post-growth strategies. Post-growth is about shifting the focus from consumption and GDP growth to quality-of-life growth. For example, energy-intensive production must decrease, consumption by the rich must decrease, and public transportation must be used more.
The researchers also suggest introducing measures such as wealth taxes, income caps, and improving transportation systems to reduce emissions while promoting fairness and sustainability.
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