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„Green Growth“– Fairytale or Strategy? Climate Lecture 2012 at TU Berlin

12/03/2012 - Economic growth does not only lead to rising turnovers and incomes but also increases greenhouse-gas emissions. Can “Green Growth” be a way out of this dilemma? Is it “a fairytale or a strategy”? Right now, issues like this are being debated at the international climate summit in Doha. Two scientists explored solution paths at the Climate Lecture at Technische Universität Berlin this Monday in front of 1000 guests – British growth critic Professor Tim Jackson and the chief economist of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Professor at TU Berlin, Ottmar Edenhofer.

 

Prosperity is possible without growth – in the long run growth even harms prosperity, because it plunders its natural base, argued Professor Tim Jackson from the University of Surrey. Jackson considers decoupling growth and environmental damage to be not practicable. "The challenges would be enormous: in a world of nine billion people all striving for Western incomes, the global carbon intensity of economic performance in 2050 would have to be at least 130 times lower than today – this would be a technological tour de force of industrial societies way beyond everything that has been achieved so far,” Jackson said.

"Ultimately, prosperity comprises more than material interests,“ Jackson emphasized. “It rests fundamentally on our capability of leading a good life as human beings – within the ecological boundaries of a finite planet.“

“So far, decoupling emission growth from economic growth has not been successful,” Professor Ottmar Edenhofer said. “But this is what’s essential for ambitious climate protection. To make this happen, global emissions would have to peak around 2020 and decline afterwards. Until 2080, the world economy would have to be virtually emission-free.” This transformation is only feasible if technologies are employed which carry both opportunities and challenges like carbon capture and storage in the ground (CCS) and the use of biomass on a large scale. Economic growth thus does involve risks. However, economic shrinkage instead of growth, Edenhofer explained, would reduce possible courses of action rather than increasing them.

“The basic problem is that growth leads to an accumulation of private assets in possession of few, and hence investments in education or the preservation of natural resources are missed out." The use of the atmosphere for instance is free, therefore investment in low-emission infrastructure doesn’t pay off,” Edenhofer explained. "In other words: We did invest too much in some areas while we did not invest enough in others." It is high time to change course regarding growth. "If you want to achieve this, however, there is not only need for accelerator and break, but above all for a steering wheel,” Edenhofer said. "If we know where we are headed we can still argue about the speed. At this point the direction we steer towards is the most important issue."

Technische Universität Berlin, by hosting the Climate Lecture, offers a unique forum in the German capital for the issues of climate change and climate research, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg Steinbach, President of TU Berlin, said. "We are staging big societal debates at the place where they belong – the university, and open our doors to the public."

This year, the Climate Lecture took a new format of academic discourse – speech and reply. Starting 2009, the Climate Lecture has hosted globally renowned thinkers and scientists: Lord Nicholas Stern from the London School of Economics, the Norwegian Elinor Ostrom, who received the Nobel Prize for her work on Commons, and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment programme based in Nairobi, Achim Steiner.


Speaker Tim Jackson, former advisor to the British government, is author of the bestselling book "Prosperity without growth". Ottmar Edenhofer is advisor to the World Bank in questions of growth and recently gave a speech to the Enquête Commission of the German parliament on growth, prosperity and life quality. He is also director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change.

Weblink to the CV of Prof. Tim Jackson, PhD: www.surrey.ac.uk/ces/people/tim_jackson/

Weblink to the CV of Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer: http://www.pik-potsdam.de/members/edenh/curriculum-vitae/curriculum-vitae?set_language=en

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