Indulging in a doughnut to leave no one behind

By Yblin Román Escobar, SDG Watch Europe

“The current climate chaos and unraveling web of life on which our society depends is an existential threat to peace, water and food security, and democracy,” a coalition of academics and international NGOs said at the second conference on “beyond growth” at the European Parliament

The author of the Doughnut Economics and co-author of this open letter, Kate Raworth Kate Raworth, stated at the conference that, the goal for the twenty first century economy is surely to meet the needs of every person in the world and do so within the means of this living planet and all the living beings.”

So, the message is to leave no one behind as stated in Agenda 2030 and its SDGs, without destroying the environment.

But at the moment, no country has achieved the goal. No country is considered to be “developed” in this sense.

Whenever you say or hear “developed countries”, Kate Raworth suggested, “ask: “I’m sorry, what are you talking about?  There is nothing developed about overshooting planetary boundaries.”

There was consensus at the conference that economic growth leads to further environmental and social degradation, and that GDP is not a good indicator of progress, and its use causes more harm than good.

The idea isn’t new, though. In 1968, Robert Kennedy said that gross domestic product measured everything except what makes life worth living.

Urgency is what is new. 

Our planetary boundaries are being transgressed, as Johan Rocktstrom illustrated at the conference

Growth is no longer seen as the solution to all problems.

In fact, no empirical evidence suggests that it is possible to decouple economic growth sufficiently from environmental pressures at the global level.  

Until now, the spotlight on climate change has largely been focused on decoupling economic growth from fossil fuel consumption. Despite the importance and necessity of this, we should not focus exclusively on carbon emissions and extend our vision and policy options beyond the current energy supply to include addressing inequality, biodiversity loss, water crises, poverty, and resource efficiency, among others in a systemic perspective, as Janez Potočnik, co-chair in the UN’s International Resource Panel, advocates. 

In the conference, Kate showed some nations have achieved to decouple a bit their growth from fossil fuel consumption. There is, however, no decoupling of the material footprint (which is, the amount of material we consume every day, including our food, clothing, smartphones, and automobiles); quite the contrary, our usage of material is increasing.  

As Europe transitions to a digital and green future, the material footprint is set to increase further. 

But infinite economic growth is not possible on a finite planet. 

To make a sustainable economy a reality, the anti-poverty strategies must be integrated into pro-planet strategies and all stakeholders must be included in the decision-making process.

When it comes to ensuring mineral supplies from resource-rich countries, the EU must take into account all stakeholders in these countries during decision making, particularly those most likely to be affected, such as Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and civil society organizations.

This is the only way to democratically and collectively make a transition that meets the needs of all without trespassing on the boundaries of the planet. 

We need to look to alternative models and narratives, models like the doughnut economics doughnut economics, the planetary boundaries , worldviews like el Buen Vivir or the Gross National Happiness, among many.

Economic growth does not provide answers for the multiple crises we face, it does neither put “well-being” and “keeping a thriving planet” at the center.  It is on us to do that.

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