Climate Change Modifies the Composition of Reefs

Corals devastated by climate change are being replaced naturally by other species such as gorgonians, which are less efficient in acting as a carbon sink.

ICTA-UAB launches the first master’s Degree in “Political Ecology. Degrowth and Environmental Justice”

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) launches the master’s Degree in “Political Ecology.

Pioneering study analyses the effects of forests on human health

A group of volunteers have participated in an experimental study conducted by the ICTA-UAB to analyse the potential health benefits of forests.

Marine Litter on Mediterranean Beaches Triples in Summer

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) analyses and quantifies the waste generated by tourists in eight islands of the Mediterranean as part of the European BLUEISLANDS project.

Mapping the Urban Vitality of Barcelona

Researchers at the UAB have mapped Barcelona and and 9 surrounding towns using a new methodology based on urbanism activist Jane Jacobs' ideas on how cities should be configured to become vital spaces: 25% of the area is classified as having high vitality.

Agricultural intensification not a “blueprint” for sustainable development

Social and ecological results of increased agricultural intensification are not as positive as expected.

Green urban planning must consider social equity criteria

Cities that do not include social equity criteria into their political strategies to make their urban environment greener and more ecological will not achieve long-term sustainability and risk creating green enclaves only for the social elite.

The ICTA-UAB alerts of a new invasive Asian beetle pest in Catalonia that kills mulberry trees

A study by researcher of the ICTA-UAB and the Department of Agriculture Víctor Sarto i Monteys has identified in the province of Barcelona the presence of a species from Asia that could spread through Europe.

More than 120 ICTA-UAB researchers addressed environmental challenges at a symposium, especially those arising from global and...

The Institut of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) organized its 1st Spring Symposium with the aim of addressing some of the main environmental and sustainability challenges.

Low-carbon energy transition requires more renewables than previously thought

A new study by ICTA-UAB analyzes the impacts on lifestyles of substituting fossil fuels for cleaner energies.

Are Farmers Who Belong to Local User Associations Better Adapted to Climate Change?

Droughts, floods and high temperatures derived from climate change are not the only threats that farmers with irrigated crops must face.

Climate Change Threatens World's Largest Seagrass Carbon Stores

Shark Bay seagrass carbon storage hotspot suffers alarming losses after a devastating marine heat wave, according to a study led by ICTA-UAB researchers.

Amazon's indigenous people hunt animals feeding in areas contaminated by oil spills

A study by the ICTA-UAB and the UAB Department of Animal Health and Anatomy demonstrates that the main species hunted by the indigenous popoulations of the Peruvian Amazon ingest water and soil contaminated with hidrocarbons and heavy metals.

The new Planttes app warns of allergy risks in different urban areas

The Planttes application is a citizen science project which aims to encourage people to identify and locate on a map the existence of allergy-causing plants and indicate their phenological state.

New Project to Link Extreme Weather Events, Atmospheric Biodiversity and Human Health

A new ICTA-UAB project led by researcher Jordina Belmonte will study the effects of extreme meteorological events on the biological biodiversity present in the atmosphere in order to predict changes in the environment and possible affectations on human health.

ICTA-UAB’s success: five ERC grants in two years

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) has been awarded five European Research Council (ERC) grants in two years, which is about ten per cent of all ERC grants arriving in Catalonia over the period from the end of 2015 to the end of 2017.

New ICTA-UAB 'Welcome Guide'

The new ICTA-UAB 'Welcome Guide' it is at your disposal now. With this document, we aim to help you discover the basics of the PhD programme, ICTA-UAB’s structure, etc.
News
The New Theory of Economic “Agrowth” Contributes to the Viability of Climate Policies

Date: 2017-03-10

 

.  ICTA-UAB researcher Jeroen van den Bergh publishes in Nature Climate Change a study in which he proposes a new economic theory compatible with the fight against climate change

.  The “agrowth” proposal comes up as an alternative to the opposing economic strategies of “green growth” and “degrowth”

Forty-five years after the first proposal on the limits to growth by the Club of Rome, the increasing concern over climate change and how to deal with it has reopened the debate questioning whether climate change mitigation policies are compatible with economic growth. 

Many citizens, scientists and politicians fear that stringent climate policy will harm economic growth. While some are betting on “anti-growth” or “degrowth”, others advocate for the “green growth” which is compatible with a transition to a low-carbon economy.

A study by ICREA professor at ICTA-UAB Jeroen van den Bergh critically reflects on both positions “that jeopardize environmental or social goals”, while a third position, labelled “agrowth”, is proposed to depolarize the debate and reduce resistance to climate policies.

In the study, published recently in Nature Climate Change, “agrowth” is proposed as an alternative to the current disjunction between the “green growth” and “degrowth” positions. As it is impossible to know for sure whether growth and a stable climate are compatible, van den Bergh considers that it is better to be agnostic about growth and proposes a strategy that discounts GDP as an indicator “since growth is not an ultimate end, not even the means to an end”.

Regarding the two other existing positions, Jeroen van den Bergh says that “green growth” is the dominant strategy among those accepting climate change as a serious threat and searching for solutions which minimise growth effects. “The Paris climate agreement reflects this, through its voluntary national pledges without back-up from globally consistent policies. One must expect non-compliance, energy rebound and carbon leakage as a result, promising the agreement to be highly ineffective”.

The economy has a tremendous flexibility to adapt, through new technologies and changes in the composition of consumption and production. However, adaptation will not be complete and rapid without severe environmental regulation. It is not clear beforehand, though, that the ensuing economic transition will concur with economic growth. In fact, the new study finds that the empirical evidence and theoretical support for green growth under serious climate policies is feeble. In other words, being categorically pro-growth is a risk-seeking strategy with regard to climate change.

Literature describes that economic growth in rich countries anyway no longer contributes meaningfully to progress. Most people amply satisfy their basic needs, while poor people stand to benefit more from distributional measures, such as progressive income taxes, social security, public health care and a decent minimum wage. 

 “If the GDP indicator does not capture societal progress in rich nations, the time has come to ignore it”, says van den Bergh. Therefore, “degrowth” and “zero growth” proposals are not considered feasible either, since they actually seek to reverse growth and cause a decline in GDP. He also indicates that anti-growth proposals lack a basis in rigorous science and thus can easily do more harm than good for society.

“One can be concerned or critical about economic growth without resorting to an anti-growth position”, states the author. He goes on to highlight that an “agrowth” strategy will allow us to scan a wider space for policies that improve welfare and environmental conditions. Policy selection will not be constrained by the goal of economic growth. “One does not need to assume that unemployment, inequity and environmental challenges are solved by unconditional pro- or zero/negative growth. Social and environmental policies sometimes restrain and at other times stimulate growth, depending on contextual factors. An “agrowth” strategy is precautionary as it makes society less sensitive to potential scenarios in which climate policy constrains economic growth. Hence, it will reduce resistance to such policy”, he indicates.

In a practical sense, van den Bergh states that it is necessary to combat the social belief – widespread among policy circles and politics - that growth has to be prioritized, and stresses the need for a debate in politics and wider society about stepping outside the futile framing of pro- versus anti-growth. “Realizing there is a third way can help to overcome current polarization and weaken political resistance against a serious climate policy”.

Reference:
van den Bergh J.C.J.M. "A third option for climate policy within potential limits to growth"Nature Climate Change. 2017, vol. 7, p. 107-112

 

ICTA's Activities