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The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) today overwhelmingly adopted an ‘own-initiative opinion’ on the sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy that Europe needs. It calls on the EU ‘for a new vision of prosperity’, developed in close collaboration with WEAll Ambassador and CUSP director Tim Jackson as Expert to the Rapporteur.

See more from the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP)

Wellbeing economy language and ideas are central to the opinion, which called for a ‘new vision of prosperity for people and planet based on the principles of environmental sustainability, the right to a decent life and the protection of social values’.

Professor  Tim Jackson has worked closely with the EESC over the last year to help craft the opinion. He was appointed by the Committee as expert to the rapporteur early last year and took a lead role on drafting (and re-drafting) the opinion in the intervening months.

“I’m absolutely delighted by today’s vote,” said Prof Jackson. “It lays the foundations for a far-reaching transformation of Europe’s economic vision for the future.”

The Committee highlighted that building the wellbeing economy must start by adopting ‘a precautionary approach in which macroeconomic stability does not depend on GDP growth’ and proposed the development of new indicators of economic performance and social progress.

Its detailed proposals include a review of the EU’s fiscal and monetary rules, an end to perverse subsidies and action ‘to address hyper-consumerism’ across Europe. It also proposed the adoption of a Living Standards Framework and the introduction of a Wellbeing Budget for the EU.

What does the ‘opinion’ call for?

  • The EESC underlines that the European Union (EU) has fully committed itself to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To guarantee their proper implementation the EU urgently needs to develop the foundations for a sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy that works for everyone.
  • The vision of social progress only relying on the pursuit of growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ignores important elements of individual and social wellbeing and fails to account properly for environmental and social considerations.
  • The EESC calls for the EU to propose a new vision of prosperity for people and planet based on the principles of environmental sustainability, the right to a decent life and the protection of social values. The economy is an enabler for this vision.
  • The wellbeing economy should protect ecosystems, conserve biodiversity and deliver a just transition to a climate neutral way of life across the EU and foster sustainable entrepreneurship. Educational systems across the EU will play a key role in promoting such concepts across society, thus inscribing in them the way of thinking of the decision-makers and leaders of tomorrow.
  • To achieve this goal, the EESC recognises the need to support the fundamental changes that have already begun to emerge in the nature of enterprise, the organisation of work, the role of investment and the structure of the money system.
  • The EESC highlights that building the wellbeing economy must start by adopting a precautionary approach in which macroeconomic stability does not depend on GDP growth. It proposes the development of new indicators of economic performance and social progress beyond GDP.
  • The EESC proposes the adoption of a Living Standards Framework and the introduction of a Wellbeing Budget for the EU, modelled on approaches already adopted elsewhere.
  • The EESC calls for an end to perverse subsidies and for the alignment of all public sector spending across the EU and its Member States with the goal of achieving climate neutrality.
  • The EESC calls for a European Green and Social Deal to deliver the large-scale investment needed for a just transition to a climate neutral economy and to provide quality jobs in every community.
  • The EESC calls on the Commission and the Member States to carry out green fiscal reform to help align taxation, subsidies and pre-distributive policies with the goal of achieving a just transition to a wellbeing economy, in particular by enforcing existing legislation.
  • The EESC proposes a review of the growth dependency of the EU Member States and a strategy to focus on sustainable and inclusive wellbeing in the EU economy. It also recommends a review of the EU’s fiscal and monetary rules to ensure they are fit for purpose in achieving the transition to a climate-neutral economy.
  • The EESC calls for all existing EU policy and budgetary/financial frameworks and tools (such as the Multi-Annual Financial Framework, the European Semester and Better Regulation) to be urgently aligned with a just transition to a wellbeing economy.
  • The EESC proposes the adaptation of the Stability and Growth Pact and the Annual Growth Survey to ensure that the wellbeing economy is fully consistent with the SDGs and the European Pillar of Social Rights.

See the full text and find out more here

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels

The Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) has published a new working paper making the case for an early zero carbon target for the UK.

‘Zero Carbon Sooner’ by Tim Jackson addresses the question of when the UK should aim for zero (or net zero) carbon emissions. Starting from the global carbon budget which would allow the world an estimated 66% chance of limiting climate warming to 1.5o C, the paper derives a fair carbon budget for the UK of 2.5 GtCO2. The briefing then analyses a variety of emission pathways and target dates in terms of their adequacy for remaining within this budget.

A key finding is that a target date for zero carbon is not sufficient to determine whether the UK remains within its carbon budget. Policy must specify both a target date and an emissions pathway. For a linear reduction pathway not to exceed the carbon budget the target year would have to be 2025. Nonlinear pathways, such as those with constant percentage reduction rates, have a higher chance of remaining within the available budget provided that the reduction starts early enough and the reduction rate is high enough. It is notable that reduction rates high enough both to lead to zero carbon (on a consumption basis) by 2050 and to remain within the carbon budget require absolute reductions of more than 95% of carbon emissions as early as 2030. On this basis, the paper argues in favour of setting a UK target for net zero carbon emissions by 2030 or earlier, with a maximum of 5% emissions addressed through negative emission technologies.

Download and read the briefing paper here.

Are you interested in nature and in writing about nature? Do you think nature writing can help us understand more about environmental threats from habitat loss to climate change—and inspire people to take action on them? And what does ‘nature writing’ have to say about sense of place, community and the good life? Are there aspects of our relationship with our environments that nature writing has neglected?

If you’re excited by the new wave of nature writing over the past two decades, CUSP hopes you will want to submit your work as a potential contribution to a forthcoming publication: Nature Writing for the Common Good.

They’re looking for unpublished authors who can offer new perspectives on our relationships with the natural world and the ways in which these can be re-imagined, changed and sustained for the common good.

This is a project led by CUSP, the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity, an international research partnership funded by the Economic and Social Research Council—engaging people, politics, business and NGOs across the UK and beyond.

This collection of short pieces will use nature writing to explore environmental and social challenges facing Britain and the world today. It hopes to harness the power of good writing about nature to help us understand our relationship with the natural world—and to motivate change.

While nature writing is hugely popular in the UK—as a visit to most bookshops would suggest—it is also open to criticism as tending to be nostalgic, concerned mainly with certain types of landscape, and dominated by a well-established set of authors and themes—with a paucity of writers who are of colour, working class or women.

Given the vast challenges posed by climate breakdown, threats to wildlife, changes in farming, pressures of many kinds on the land, nature writing is entangled with difficult and far-reaching political, economic and social issues. We hope to see entries that engage with this complexity.

We’re looking for nature writing—from anyone yet to be published—that can open up new perspectives on the state of our relations with land, wildlife and one another, and help us to see engagement with nature, often profound and individual, as part of a ‘common good.’ We want to include a wide variety of contributors, landscapes and types of writing.

Call for entries

The competition begins on 15th April 2019 and the closing date for submissions is 17th June 2019. We welcome contributions up to 2,500 words. The genre is ‘essay’—but this can include many non-fictional approaches—including a work of reportage, a memoir—and we are looking for innovative ways of reflecting on our connections with nature, place and other creatures. The winners will be published in an open-access online collection by CUSP. We are developing plans for a later print publication and further rounds of calls, including possibly taking a selected new author to publication of their first book.

Entries will be shortlisted by Kate Oakley and Ian Christie. Our final judging panel for pieces to be included in the collection comprises well-known authors and environmental writers Madeleine BuntingJessica J LeeLouisa Adjoa ParkerRichard SmythKen Worpole and CUSP Director Tim Jackson. We look forward to your submissions!

Guidelines

  • The competition is international in scope and open to all—but essays must be written in English and unpublished for the duration of the competition.
  • We are seeking to support authors who are unpublished yet in print up to and during the competition. We especially welcome submissions from writers of disadvantaged communities. Entries are invited from all age groups.
  • The length of the essay should not exceed 2.500 words.
  • For conceptual background on New Nature Writing, please see the project introduction by Ian Christie and Kate Oakley.

Get involved here: https://www.cusp.ac.uk/themes/a/naturewriting/

This blog was first published by CUSP

The last century has seen unprecedented economic and social progress for many people in many parts in the world. In light of climate change, and social and economic instability, the challenge is now to make ourselves at home with this wealth, to ensure, in the interests of equality, that everyone is included.

By KATHERINE TREBECK and JEREMY WILLIAMS

In 1890 the political economist Jean Charles de Sismondi published Nouveaux Principes dEconomie Politique. It was a powerful work of humanitarian protest against an economy that saw wealth accumulation as an end in itself. Wondering if economic expansion looms too large in the political imagination is by no means a new idea, and in the 130 odd years since de Sismondi wrote about it, the problem has only become more acute.

Financial wealth can be a major tool in human development and emancipation. The 20th century saw decades of steady growth in the industrialised world, and unprecedented economic and social progress along with it. Between the economic collapse of 1929 through to the late 1970s, growth was accompanied by policies to close the gap between rich and poor. It was a time of economic equalisation, as union rights expanded and workers enjoyed a greater share of the wealth through their wages. Women entered the workforce in large numbers, reducing gender inequality. Levels of education rose, improving job quality and raising wages for low skilled workers. Progressive tax regimes were implemented, and social welfare programmes expanded. While poverty and hardship have not been eliminated altogether in industrial economies, many people are richer, healthier and better cared for today than previous generations could ever have imagined.

Having come this far, it is troubling to consider how much of this progress is threatened by climate change, inequality, environmental decline and extreme politics. After all these gains, the next generation may see achievements slipping away. Others, still on the outside of that progress, may find the door closing on them as competition for resources and the mounting damage of climate change begin to erode gains as fast as development can proceed.

Wealthy economies still pursuing growth are like a man in an orchard with an armful of apples, who can’t stoop to pick up any more without dropping what he’s already carrying.

Of course, it’s easy to say that a country has ‘enough’ wealth and resources, but that doesn’t imply that everyone has what they need. Wealth may be distributed very poorly—the richest 10% of households in Britain own more wealth than the first eight deciles put together.

Neither does it feel like an age of prosperity. The number of people on zero hour contracts has quadrupled since the financial crisis, and earnings can feel insecure and precarious. The little victories of consumerism are short lived. Our prized possessions rapidly lose their gloss – the iPad 4 came out just eight months after the iPad 3. We’re always one more purchase away from happiness, the advertisers tell us: just a gym membership short of physical perfection, one insurance policy short of the peace of mind we long for. But satisfaction through consumption is a false promise, and it marginalises those who can’t afford to participate.

De Sismondi argued that the world needed a new set of principles for the political economy, and that remains true today. One of those principles is what we call ‘Arrival’—the possibility that GDP-rich countries can reach a point of maturity where they have enough wealth and resources to provide a good life to all their citizens. Having arrived, they can refocus from quantity to quality, ensuring that everyone is included. We call this ‘making ourselves at home’.

We would argue that many of the world’s richest nations have indeed arrived and could be considered ‘fully grown’. The task now is to pay more attention to distribution and inclusion, pursuing improvement rather than enlargement. This would not be a mythical end of progress, but the beginning of a new chapter. J M Keynes hinted at this when he described a future people who would be free to cultivate ‘the art of life’, once the ‘means of life’ had been secured. With the survival priorities taken care of, they could look to other forms of progress, such as increased leisure time, more participative democracy, or a shift from consumerism to ‘experientialism’.

Despite its historical roots, this remains a provocative idea. The forces acting against such a shift are formidable. Political success is measured in GDP growth. The economy collapses into recession and job losses without it. International institutions ascribe voting rights or places at the table on the basis of economic power. And there’s our own psychology to contend with—there is a human tendency to think of more as better, and growth as good. Keynes warned that it would be hard to adjust.

So did J K Galbraith. “To have failed to solve the problem of producing goods would have been to continue man [sic] in his oldest and most grievous misfortune” he wrote. “But to fail to see that we have solved it and fail to proceed hence to the next task would be fully as tragic.”

It would be tragic enough if society failed to notice and appreciate the abundance it already has. But it could be worse. By pursuing the goals of the 19th and 20th centuries into the 21st, despite them being ostensibly met, the economic models of developed countries may begin to undo the hard work of previous generations. To abuse that abundance, and in so doing pass on a poorer future to future generations—not to mention the ongoing injustice of so poorly sharing the benefits around the world today—constitutes a huge betrayal of the opportunities and possibilities of today’s world.

Katherine Trebeck is a researcher and member of the CUSP Advisory Committee, she works as the Policy and Knowledge Lead for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. Jeremy Williams is a sustainability writer and activist who blogs at makewealthhistory.org. Their new book, The Economics of Arrival: Ideas for a grown-up economy, is out now from Policy Press.

Mural by Akarat (and Hoax), Bristol. Image courtesy of scooj.org, 2015

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck writes for CUSP on “Making transformation tangible”.

Excerpt:

“The vision underpinning so much of this work is not far away. You hear it if you take the time to listen to what people identify as most important in their lives. You read it in certain texts of the world’s religions and development scholarship. You see it if you look at brain scans or reflect on the findings of psychologists and epidemiologists about human stress and flourishing. It flows from what Tim Jackson often refers to as what makes us ‘innately human’.

Essentially, the messages from these diverse quarters point to the need for a ‘wellbeing economy’: an economy in service of human and ecological wellbeing. It is about meeting the needs of all. It recognises that the economy is embedded in society and the rest of nature rather than nature and society being in service of the economy. A wellbeing economy is about more than tweaking and fixing the harm caused by the current model.”

Read the full blog here