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Feasible alternatives to green growth

Abstract

Climate change and increasing income inequality have emerged as twin threats to contemporary standards of living, peace and democracy. These two problems are usually tackled separately in the policy agenda. A new breed of radical proposals have been advanced to manage a fair low-carbon transition. In this spirit, we develop a dynamic macrosimulation model to investigate the long-term effects of three scenarios: green growth, policies for social equity, and degrowth. The green growth scenario, based on technological progress and environmental policies, achieves a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at the cost of increasing income inequality and unemployment. The policies for social equity scenario adds direct labour market interventions that result in an environmental performance similar to green growth while improving social conditions at the cost of increasing public deficit. The degrowth scenario further adds a reduction in consumption and exports, and achieves a greater reduction in emissions and inequality with higher public deficit, despite the introduction of a wealth tax. We argue that new radical social policies can combine social prosperity and low-carbon emissions and are economically and politically feasible.

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Fig. 1: Macroview.
Fig. 2: Scenario analysis: GHG emissions and income inequality.
Fig. 3: Scenario analysis: socioeconomic indicators.

Data availability

The initial data and the simulation outcomes of the model that support the findings of this study are available from Zenodo at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3549756. Source Data for Figs. 2 and 3 are provided as Source Data files.

Code availability

The EUROGREEN model was developed in Vensim DSS. The code for the model can be viewed at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3624944.

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Acknowledgements

This research was commissioned by B. Eickhout, P. Lamberts, F. Marcellesi and T. Reintke (members of parliament at the GreensEFA Group at the European Parliament). We thank all of them, as well as C. Cattaneo, F. Demaria, O. Derruine, E. Giuliani, P. Guarnieri, G. Kallis, P. Manfredi and L. Piccinini for discussions and suggestions. We also thank the participants at the 6th International Degrowth Conference, held in Malmö, and at the Post-Growth Conference, held at the European Parliament. This research would not have been finalized without funding under the LOCOMOTION project, within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 821105.

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Authors

Contributions

S.D. and K.D. initiated this project and developed an initial version of the model. S.D., A.C. and T.D. developed the final version of the model, selected and programmed the individual policies and policy mixes, performed the simulation and wrote the manuscript. A.C. created Fig. 1 and T.D. created Figs. 2 and 3. All authors contributed to the Supplementary Information.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Simone D’Alessandro.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary methods, results, Figs. 1–15, Tables 1–21 and references.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 2

Data from our simulation used to produce figure 2.

Source Data Fig. 3

Data from our simulation used to produce figure 3.

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D’Alessandro, S., Cieplinski, A., Distefano, T. et al. Feasible alternatives to green growth. Nat Sustain 3, 329–335 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0484-y

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