The 2006 Stern Review, regarded as one of the most significant economic reports on climate change, asserts that carbon emission reductions of more than 3-4% per year are incompatible with GDP growth. So yes, we can decouple economic growth with emissions, but only to an extent.
According to climate scientists such as Kevin Anderson, Alice Bows-Larkin, and Samuel Alexander, this decoupling rate is not enough. They concluded that in order to adequately address climate change, developed countries would have to pursue economic degrowth. (Of course, developing countries should still be able to develop their economy, albeit more sustainably than developed countries did.)
For people who have not heard the arguments of degrowth, the concept can be off-putting at first, and rightfully so. The idea of degrowth would force us to rethink capitalism, an economic system that our society is so deeply attached to.
I see this voluntary boycott of Climate Generations as an indication that the UNFCCC process is failing civil society."
When I first went to Climate Generations, I was excited to engage in intellectually stimulating conversations on degrowth with people. Surely, people who were focused on tackling climate change were thinking about the problems with economic growth, right? As it turns out, I was wrong.
Most of the panel discussions talking about economics focused on “green growth” and “sustainable development.” Whenever I confronted people about degrowth during these panels, they were either dismissive or clearly hadn’t thought about it before. I was only able to get people to talk about degrowth in one-on-one conversations. It was disheartening—and honestly quite scary—to see that at the forum on climate change, nobody was willing to engage in this issue, at least publicly.
Honestly, I shouldn’t have expected anything else at a place being hosted by COP 21. After all, international negotiations like these aren’t designed to be radically transformative, so why would COP21 be the place where systems such as capitalism are confronted?
I had a much better time attending events at alternative venues.
At Place to B, I attended a workshop called “Dismantling the Buying Imperative,” which focused on consumerism and issues with our capitalist system. I met people who were willing to engage in conversations about economic growth, and some of them had even done research on degrowth. I had the pleasure of interviewing Vincent Liegey, one of the organizers of the International Degrowth Conference.
Vincent did not hesitate to criticize the UNFCCC process for failing to address the systemic issues that are driving climate change. Vincent did not go to the COP 21 venue at all, because he didn’t have any reason to. I see this voluntary boycott of Climate Generations as an indication that the UNFCCC process is failing civil society.
Personally, I had a more meaningful time going to alternative venues than wandering around Climate Generations. Until we can honestly discuss the core problems at hand, our society will continue to come up with false solutions that don’t address the root cause. Until spaces such as Climate Generations are willing to actively and publicly question and dismantle systems such as capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy, I doubt that the UNFCCC process will do enough to address climate change.