WG 1: The big transnational questions

Author: poppy | Date: 14 September, 2013 | Category: Economics | Comments: 0

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WG 1: The big transnational questions – especially:

The concept of a steady state economy (SSE) 
The basic rules of a SSE are:

i. exploit renewable resources no faster than the can be regenerated
ii. deplete non-renewables no faster than the rate at which renewable substitutes can be developed
iii. emit wastes no faster than they can be safely assimilated by ecosystems

(Dietz & O’Neill (ch5) citing Herman Daley’s three rules for limiting throughput)

Dietz & O’Neill note (p45/6 ch 4) that an SSE is not a static economy: it can develop qualitatively rather quantitatively – in relation to ‘knowledge, technology, information, wisdom, the mix of products, income distribution, and social institutions, among other things’. And SSE does not mean the current developed world economy remaining ‘steady’ or not growing.  The current economy violates all three of the above rules.

How to achieve an SSE? Direct methods include outright bans, rationing, tradable permits, cap and share schemes.  Surer ways of accomplishing their purpose – but are considered coercive.  Indirect methods include taxation schemes and the setting up of specific conservation areas. Combination of methods required, inevitably impinging on personal freedoms to some degree.

Four prerequisites for moving towards an SSE:
i.   a more equitable distribution of income & wealth, as available resources will decline (discussed further in WG 3)
ii.  comprehensive monitoring system
iii. an incremental approach
iv. co-ordination across all levels of government

But this framework is only our starting position.  While we in the Joy in Enough project are very impressed by the SSE school, we are keen to emphasise that the we are not the CASSE (Centre for the Advancement of a SSE) at prayer! As we read their documents we may ask many critical questions.

WG 1.1 transitioning to a global steady state economy

Global-level measures are necessary to support positive developments in national and local economies. What would a programme for the transition to a global steady state economy look like? What needs to happen at the transnational level to support the measures that are likely to be recommended by the other working groups in this project?

For example WG2 will no doubt be discussing support for investments in industries and services low in environmental impact and high in contribution to well-being. But some businesses are likely to migrate to countries with lower standards, as they do now, rather than adapting. What international frameworks are required to stop that happening?

Dietz & O’Neill (2013, ch14) suggest a Policy objective: for all countries to pursue economies of an optimal scale, i.e. economies of a maximum sustainable size; or perhaps somewhere below the maximum level to allow some ecological ‘breathing space’.  They discuss indicators that might be used.  They also discuss international trade and financial transactions across national boundaries – including the dangers of ‘capital flight’ to countries that don’t internalise their social and environmental costs

WG 1.2 resource and emission caps

The concept of ‘planetary boundaries’, based on research at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, is discussed by Lynas (2011). Jackson (2009) and Dietz & O’Neill (2013) both argue the need for caps, and for limiting throughput, resource use and waste production.

WG 1.3 gaining international co-operation on these issues

Practically, one very tangible output from this working group might be to list the most important international agreements being campaigned for, what our government’s position on them is, and what we in the churches and ‘green’ movement can do in support of these campaigns.

(See Jackson p175, 178. D & O’N not very clear on the policy and institutional measures required to achieve these ends).

The literature extracts cited above are just meant to help define the initial agenda’s for the different working groups, and to be starting points for further exploration of research and ideas. See References for Joy in Enough Working Groups. WG members will come up with different and better sources over time. Note that the different groups may operate at the different levels of society – political, parochial, personal. The first two will be more concerned with the national and international political levels, the next three may cross all three levels.

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