This week, scientists, politicians, and policy makers are gathering in Brussels for a landmark conference. The aim of this event, organised by Members of the European Parliament from five different political groups, alongside trade unions and NGOs, is to explore possibilities for a ‘post-growth economy’ in Europe.

For the past seven decades, GDP growth has stood as the primary economic objective of European nations. But as our economies have grown, so has our negative impact on the environment. We are now exceeding the safe operating space for humanity on this planet, and there is no sign that economic activity is being decoupled from resource use or pollution at anything like the scale required. Today, solving social problems within European nations does not require more growth. It requires a fairer distribution of the income and wealth that we already have.

Growth is also becoming harder to achieve due to declining productivity gains, market saturation, and ecological degradation. If current trends continue, there may be no growth at all in Europe within a decade. Right now the response is to try to fuel growth by issuing more debt, shredding environmental regulations, extending working hours, and cutting social protections. This aggressive pursuit of growth at all costs divides society, creates economic instability, and undermines democracy.

Those in power have not been willing to engage with these issues, at least not until now. The European Commission’s Beyond GDP project became GDP and Beyond. The official mantra remains growth — redressed as ‘sustainable’, ‘green’, or ‘inclusive’ — but first and foremost, growth. Even the new UN Sustainable Development Goals include the pursuit of economic growth as a policy goal for all countries, despite the fundamental contradiction between growth and sustainability.

The good news is that within civil society and academia, a post-growth movement has been emerging. It goes by different names in different places: décroissance, Postwachstum, steady-state or doughnut economics, prosperity without growth, to name a few. Since 2008, regular degrowth conferences have gathered thousands of participants. A new global initiative, the Wellbeing Economies Alliance (or WE-All), is making connections between these movements, while a European research network has been developing new ‘ecological macroeconomic models’. Such work suggests that it’s possible to improve quality of life, restore the living world, reduce inequality, and provide meaningful jobs — all without the need for economic growth, provided we enact policies to overcome our current growth dependence.

Some of the changes that have been proposed include limits on resource use, progressive taxation to stem the tide of rising inequality, and a gradual reduction in working time. Resource use could be curbed by introducing a carbon tax, and the revenue could be returned as a dividend for everyone or used to finance social programs. Introducing both a basic and a maximum income would reduce inequality further, while helping to redistribute care work and reducing the power imbalances that undermine democracy. New technologies could be used to reduce working time and improve quality of life, instead of being used to lay off masses of workers and increase the profits of the privileged few.

Given the risks at stake, it would be irresponsible for politicians and policy makers not to explore possibilities for a post-growth future. The conference happening in Brussels is a promising start, but much stronger commitments are needed. As a group of concerned social and natural scientists representing all Europe, we call on the European Union, its institutions, and member states to:

  1. Constitute a special commission on Post-Growth Futures in the EU Parliament. This commission should actively debate the future of growth, devise policy alternatives for post-growth futures, and reconsider the pursuit of growth as an overarching policy goal.
  2. Incorporate alternative indicators into the macroeconomic framework of the EU and its member states. Economic policies should be evaluated in terms of their impact on human wellbeing, resource use, inequality, and the provision of decent work. These indicators should be given higher priority than GDP in decision-making.
  3. Turn the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) into a Stability and Wellbeing Pact. The SGP is a set of rules aimed at limiting government deficits and national debt. It should be revised to ensure member states meet the basic needs of their citizens, while reducing resource use and waste emissions to a sustainable level.
  4. Establish a Ministry for Economic Transition in each member state. A new economy that focuses directly on human and ecological wellbeing could offer a much better future than one that is structurally dependent on economic growth.

 

Do you agree? Sign the petition here.

This letter was originally published in the Guardian on 17 September 2018.

 

Signatories:

  • Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor, University of Leeds, UK
  • Dr Federico Demaria, Researcher, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr Giorgos Kallis, Professor, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr Kate Raworth, Author of ‘Doughnut Economics’, UK
  • Dr Tim Jackson, Professor, University of Surrey, UK
  • Dr Jason Hickel, Lecturer, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
  • Dr Lorenzo Fioramonti, Professor, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Dr Marta Conde, President of Research & Degrowth, Spain
  • Dr Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, UK
  • Dr Steve Keen, Professor, Kingston University, UK
  • Dr Saskia Sassen, Professor of Sociology, Columbia University, USA
  • Dr Ann Pettifor, Director, Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME), UK
  • Dr Serge Latouche, Université Paris Sud, France
  • Dr Kate Pickett, Professor, University of York, UK
  • Dr Susan George, President of the Transnational Institute-TNI, Netherlands
  • Dr Joan Martinez Alier, Professor, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Catalonia
  • Dr David Graeber, Professor, London School of Economics, UK
  • Dr Juan Carlos Monedero Fernández, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain
  • Dr Dominique Méda, Professor, University Paris Dauphine, France
  • Dr Lourdes Beneria, Professor Emerita, Cornell University, USA
  • Dr Inge Røpke, Professor, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Dr Niko Paech, Professor, University of Siegen, Germany
  • Dr Jean Gadrey, Professor, University of Lille, France
  • Dr Nadia Johanisova, Lecturer, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
  • Dr Wolfgang Sachs, Research Director Emeritus, Wuppertal Institut, Germany
  • Dr Stefania Barca, Senior Researcher, Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal
  • Dr Gilbert Rist, Emeritus Professor, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Switzerland
  • Dr György Pataki, Professor, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
  • Dr Simone D’Alessandro, Professor, University of Pisa, Italy
  • Dr Ian Gough, Visiting Professor, London School of Economics, UK
  • Dr Iñigo Capellán-Pérez, Researcher, University of Valladolid, Spain
  • Dr Amaia Pérez Orozco, Researcher, Colectiva XXK, Spain
  • Dr Max Koch, Professor, Lund University, Sweden
  • Dr Fabrice Flipo, Professor, Institut Mines Télécom-BS et LCSP Paris 7 Diderot, France
  • Dr Matthias Schmelzer, Researcher, University of Jena and Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie, Germany
  • Dr Óscar Carpintero, Associate Professor, University of Valladolid, Spain
  • Dr Hubert Buch-Hansen, Associate Professor, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
  • Dr Christos Zografos, Pompeu Fabra University, Spain
  • Dr Tereza Stöckelová, Associate Professor, Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic
  • Dr Alf Hornborg, Professor, Lund University, Sweden
  • Dr Eric Clark, Professor, Lund University, Sweden
  • Dr Miklós Antal, Researcher, University of Leeds, UK
  • Dr Jordi Roca Jusmet, Professor, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr Philippe Defeyt, Chairman, Institute for Sustainable Development, Belgium
  • Dr Erik Swyngedouw, Professor, University of Manchester, UK
  • Dr Christian Kerschner, Assistant Professor, Modul University Vienna, Austria
  • Dr Agata Hummel, Assistant Professor, University of Adam Mickiewicz, Poland
  • Dr Frank Moulaert, Emeritus Professor, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
  • Dr Frank Adler, Researcher, Brandenburg-Berlin Institute for Social Scientific Research, Germany
  • Dr Janne I. Hukkinen, Professor, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Dr Jorge Riechmann, Professor, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain
  • Samuel Martín-Sosa Rodríguez, Responsable de Internacional, Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
  • Dr John Barry, Professor, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Dr Linda Nierling, Senior Scientist, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
  • Dr Ines Omann, Senior Researcher, Austrian Foundation for Development Research, Austria
  • Dr Hug March, Associate Professor, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain
  • Dr Jakub Kronenberg, Associate Professor, University of Lodz, Poland
  • Yayo Herrero, Miembro del Foro de Transiciones, Spain
  • Dr Isabelle Anguelovski, Professor, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr François Schneider, Researcher, Research & Degrowth, France
  • Dr Vasilis Kostakis, Senior Researcher, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
  • Dr Enric Tello, Professor, University of Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr Andrew Sayer, Professor, Lancaster University, UK
  • Dr Kate Soper, Emerita Professor, London Metropolitan University, UK
  • Dr Klaus Hubacek, Professor, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria
  • Dr Brent Bleys, Assistant Professor, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Dr Jill Jäger, Independent Scholar, Vienna, Austria
  • Dr Mauro Gallegati, Professor, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Italy
  • Dr Peadar Kirby, Professor Emeritus, University of Limerick, Ireland
  • Dr Inés Marco, Researcher, University of Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr Ivan Murray Mas, Assistant Lecturer, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Spain
  • Dr Alexandros Kioupkiolis, Assistant Professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
  • Dr Aurore Lalucq, Co-Director, Veblen Institute, France
  • Dr Gaël Plumecocq, Researcher, French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), France
  • Dr David Soto Fernández, Associate Professor, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Spain
  • Dr Christian Kimmich, Researcher, Masaryk University Brno, Czech Republic
  • Dr Giacomo D’Alisa, Researcher, Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal
  • Dr Seth Schindler, Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester, UK
  • Dr Philippe Roman, Researcher, ICHEC Brussels Management School, Belgium
  • Dr Lorenzo Pellegrini, Associate Professor, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • Dr Erik Gómez-Baggethun, Professor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway
  • Dr Tommaso Luzzati, Assistant Professor, University of Pisa, Italy
  • Dr Christoph Gran, ZOE Institute for Future Fit Economies, Germany
  • Dr Tor A. Benjaminsen, Professor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway
  • Dr Barry McMullin, Professor, Dublin City University, Ireland
  • Dr Edwin Zaccai, Professor, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
  • Dr Jens Friis Lund, Professor, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Dr Pierre Ozer, Researcher, Université de Liège, Belgium
  • Dr Louison Cahen-Fourot, Researcher, Institute for Ecological Economics, Wirtschaftsuniversität Vienna, Austria
  • Dr Tommaso Rondinella, Researcher, Italian National Institute of Statistics, Italy
  • Dr Julia Steinberger, Associate Professor, University of Leeds, UK
  • Dr Andrew Fanning, Marie Curie Research Fellow, University of Leeds, UK
  • Jose Luis Fdez Casadevante Kois, Miembro del Foro Transiciones, Spain
  • Dr Seema Arora-Jonsson, Professor, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
  • Dr Astrid Agenjo Calderón, Lecturer, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Spain
  • Dr Tom Bauler, Professor, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
  • Dr Gregers Andersen, Independent Researcher, Denmark
  • Dr Peter Söderbaum, Professor Emeritus, Mälardalen University, Sweden
  • Dr Lourenzo Fernandez Priero, Professor, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  • Dr John R Porter, Emeritus Professor, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Dr François Thoreau, Senior Researcher, University of Liege, France
  • Mariagiulia Costanzo Talarico, Researcher, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Spain
  • Dr Maria Nikolaidi, Senior Lecturer, University of Greenwich, UK
  • Dr Ekaterina Chertkovskaya, Lecturer, Lund University, Sweden
  • Dr Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen, Assistant Professor, University of Roskilde, Denmark
  • Dimitar Sabev, Researcher, University of National and World Economy, Bulgaria
  • Dr Mladen Domazet, Research Director, Institute for Political Ecology, Croatia
  • Dr Hans Diefenbacher, Professor, University of Heidelberg, Germany
  • Dr Marco Armiero, Director of the Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
  • Dr Irene Ring, Professor, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
  • Dr Christine Bauhardt, Professor, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
  • Dr Dominique Bourg, Professor, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Dr Tomas Ryska, Lecturer, University of Economics, Czech Republic
  • Dr Filka Sekulova, Researcher, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr Andrej Lukšič, Associate Professor, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Dr Adrian Smith, Professor, University of Sussex, UK
    Dr Serenella Iovino, Professor, Università di Torino, Italy
  • Dr Helga Kromp-Kolb, Professor, University of Renewable Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria
  • Dr Roberto De Vogli, Associate Professor, University of Padova, Italy
  • Dr Danijela Dolenec, Assistant Professor, University of Zagreb, Croatia
  • Dr Alexandra Köves, Senior Lecturer, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
  • Dr Antoine Bailleux, Professor, Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles, Belgium
  • Dr Christof Mauch, Director, Rachel Carson Centre for Environment and Society, Germany
  • Ajda Pistotnik, Independent Researcher, EnaBanda, Slovenia
  • Dr Branko Ančić, Researcher, Institute for Social Research for Social Research in Zagreb, Croatia
  • Dr Marija Brajdic Vukovic, Assistant Professor, University of Zagreb, Croatia
  • Dr Manuel González de Molina, Professor, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Spain
  • Dr Kye Askins, Reader, University of Glasgow, UK
  • Dr Carlos de Castro Carranza, Profesor Titular de Física Aplicada, Universidad de Valladolid, Spain
  • Dr Annika Pissin, Researcher, Lund University, Sweden
  • Dr Eva Fraňková, Assistant Professor, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
  • Dr Helga Kromp-Kolb, Professor, University of Renewable Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria
  • Dr Lidija Živčič, Senior Expert, Focus, Association for Sustainable Development, Slovenia
  • Dr Martin Pogačar, Research Fellow, ZRC SAZU, Slovenia
  • Dr Peter Nielsen, Associate Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark
  • Yaryna Khmara, Researcher, University of Lodz, Poland
  • Dr Ika Darnhofer, Associate Professor, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria
  • Dr Isabelle Cassiers, Professor, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
  • Dr Mihnea Tanasescu, Researcher, Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium
  • Dr Daniel Hausknost, Assistant Professor, Institute for Social Change and Sustainability, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
  • Dr Christoph Görg, Professor, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Austria
  • Dr Andreas Novy, Professor, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
  • Dr Fikret Adaman, Professor, Boğaziçi University, Turkey
  • Dr Bengi Akbulut, Assistant Professor, Concordia University, Canada
  • Dr Kevin Maréchal, Professor, Université de Liège, Belgium
  • Dr Anke Schaffartzik, Researcher, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr Milena Buchs, Associate Professor, University of Leeds, UK
  • Dr Jean-Louis Aillon, Researcher, University of Genova, Italy
  • Dr Melanie Pichler, Researcher, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria
  • Dr Helmut Haberl, Associate Professor, Institute of Social Ecology, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria
  • Dr Julien-François Gerber, Assistant Professor, International Institute of Social Studies, Netherlands
  • Dr John Holten-Andersen, Associate Professor, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Theresa Klostermeyer, Officer for Sustainability and Social Change, German League for Nature, Animal and Environmental Protection, Germany
  • Dr Lyla Mehta, Professor, Institute of Development Studies, UK
  • Dr Geneviève Azam, Professor, Université Jean Jaurès, France
  • Dr Hermann E. Ott, Professor, University of Sustainable Development Eberswalde, Germany
  • Dr Angelika Zahrnt, Professor, Institute for Ecological Economic Research, Germany
  • Dr Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, UK
  • Dr Irmi Seidl, Assistant Professor, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Switzerland
  • Dr Shilpi Srivastava, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, UK
  • Dr Elgars Felcis, Researcher, University of Latvia, Chairman of Latvian Permaculture Association, Latvia
  • Dr Tilman Santarius, Professor, Technische Universität Berlin and Einstein Center Digital Futures, Germany
  • Nina Treu, Coordinator of Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie, Germany
  • Dr Laura Horn, Associate Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark
  • Jennifer Hinton, Researcher, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
  • Dr Friedrich Hinterberger, President, Sustainable Europe Research Institute, Austria
  • Dr Miriam Lang, Assistant Professor, Universidad Andina Simón Bolivar, Ecuador
  • Dr Susse Georg, Professor, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Dr Silvio Cristiano, Researcher, Università degli Studi di Napoli ‘Parthenope’ & Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italy
  • Dr Petr Jehlička, Senior Lecturer, Open University, UK
  • Dr Maja Göpel, Professor, Leuphana University, Member Club of Rome, Germany
  • Dr Geraldine Thiry, Associate Professor, ICHEC Brussels Management School, Belgium
  • Dr Olivier Malay, Researcher, University of Louvain, Belgium
  • Dr Richard Lane, Researcher, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Dr Laura Centemeri, Researcher, National Centre for Scientific Research, France
  • Dr Stephan Lessenich, Professor, Ludwig Maximilians University, Germany
  • Timothée Parrique, Researcher, Stockholm University, Sweden
  • Dr Ludivine Damay, Lecturer, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
  • Dr Janis Brizga, Researcher, University of Latvia, Latvia
  • Dr Claudio Cattaneo, Associate Professor, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr Miquel Ortega Cerdà, Advisor, Barcelona City Council
  • Dr Olivier De Schutter, Professor, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium
  • Dr Annalisa Colombino, Assistant Professor, Institute of Geography and Regional Sciences, University of Graz, Austria
  • Dr Philip von Brockdorff, Head of the Department of Economics, University of Malta, Malta
  • Dr Sarah Cornell, Senior Researcher, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
  • Dr Ruth Kinna, Professor, Loughborough University, UK
  • Francesco Gonella, Professor, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italy
  • Orsolya Lazanyi, Researcher, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
  • Dr Eva Friman, Director at Swedesd, Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Dr Pernilla Hagbert, Researcher, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
  • Vincent Liegey, Co-Author of ‘A Degrowth Project’, Hungary
  • Dr Manlio Iofrida, Associate Professor, University of Bologna, Italy
  • Dr Mauro Bonaiuti, Lecturer, University of Turin, Italy
  • Dr Marco Deriu, Researcher, University of Parma, Italy
  • Dr Eeva Houtbeckers, Postdoctoral Researcher, Aalto University, Finland
  • Dr Guy Julier, Professor, Aalto University, Finland
  • Dr Anna Kaijser, Lecturer, Linköping University, Sweden
  • Dr Petter Næss, Professor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway
  • Dr Irina Velicu, Researcher, Center for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal
  • Dr Ulrich Brand, Professor, University of Vienna, Austria
  • Dr Christina Plank, Researcher, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria
  • Dr Karolina Isaksson, Senior Research Leader, Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, Sweden
  • Dr Jin Xue, Associate Professor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway
  • Dr Rasmus Steffansen, Researcher, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway
  • Dr Irmak Ertör, Researcher, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr Maria Hadjimichael, Researcher, University of Cyprus, Cyprus
  • Dr Carlo Aall, Researcher, Western Norway Research Institute, Norway
  • Dr Claudiu Craciun, Lecturer, National School of Political Studies and Administration (SNSPA), Romania
  • Dr Tuuli Hirvilammi, Researcher, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
  • Dr Tuula Helne, Senior Researcher, The Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Finland
  • Davide Biolghini, Researcher, Rete italiana Economia Solidale (RES), Italy
  • Dr Pasi Heikkurinen, Lecturer, University of Leeds, UK
  • Dr Anne Tittor, Researcher, University of Jena, Germany
  • Dr Dennis Eversberg, Researcher, University of Jena, Germany
  • Dr Herman Stål, Lecturer, Umea School of Business, Economics and Statistics, Sweden
  • Dr Hervé Corvellec, Professor, Lund University, Sweden
  • Dr Anna Heikkinen, Researcher, University of Tampere, Finland
  • Dr Karl Bonnedahl, Researcher, Umea University, Sweden
  • Dr Meri Koivusalo, Professor, University of Tampere, Finland
  • Dr Martin Fritz, Researcher, Bielefeld University, Germany
  • Dr Daniel Bergquist, Researcher, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
  • Dr Yuri Kazepov, Professor, University of Vienna, Austria
  • Dr Salvador Pueyo, Researcher, Universitat de Barcelona, Catalonia
  • Dr Lars Rydén, Professor, Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Patrick ten Brink, Director of EU Policy, European Environmental Bureau, Belgium
  • Dr Ebba Lisberg Jensen, Associate Professor, Malmö University, Sweden
  • Dr Alevgul H. Sorman, Researcher, Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), Spain
  • Dr Aram Ziai, Professor, University of Kassel, Germany
  • Dr Panos Petridis, Researcher, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Austria
  • Dr Gary Dymski, Professor, University of Leeds, UK
  • Dr Markus Wissen, Professor, Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany
  • Dr Wendy Harcourt, Professor, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University, The Netherlands
  • Dr John Barrett, Professor, University of Leeds, UK
  • Dr Silke van Dyk, Professor, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany
  • Dr Vasna Ramasar, Senior Lecturer, Lund University, Sweden
  • Danijela Tamše, Managing Editor of the Journal for the Critique of Science, Imagination, and New Anthropology, Slovenia
  • Dr Camil Ungureanu, Associate Professor, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain
  • Dr Mirela Holy, Lecturer, VERN’ University of Zagreb, Croatia