Friday, April 17, 2009

Living within our Means

Living Within Our Means

March 2009

The global economic crisis and accelerating climate change stem from the same causes and give warning of a “perfect storm” unless politicians act to transform capitalism, Jonathon Porritt warns in a pamphlet launched today.

Politicians have a unique opportunity to confront and resolve both crises simultaneously. But there is no time to lose, he argues in Living Within Our Means.

“Unless we put the imperative of living within our means, both financially and environmentally, absolutely at the heart of everything we do to dig ourselves out of this recession, then any economic reprieve that we enjoy at the end of that time will be as bittersweet as it will be short-lived,” writes Porritt, founder director of sustainable development charity Forum for the Future and chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission.

Politicians working to fix global financial markets must ask whether their solutions will also help fix the global environment: “Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that managed to rescue the global banking system even as we allowed the natural world to collapse around us?”

Porritt argues that few politicians grasp the scale of the task ahead. Although he welcomes the UK’s Climate Change Act, he warns that “there is no serious indicator that the Government is using the current crisis to rethink the way we live and the way we create wealth.” (p 67)

He sets out in detail (Chapter 2) how “Anglo-American deregulated, debt-driven, growth-at-all-costs capitalism” is responsible not only for the near-collapse of the global banking system but also the “near-imminent collapse of the ecological systems on which we all depend.”

Living Within Our Means follows Porritt’s acclaimed book Capitalism As If The World Matters. He calls for “a root-and-branch transformation of capitalism”, and reviews (Chapter 4) current thinking on sustainable models of capitalism, identifying key priorities for politicians:

· global programmes to restore the natural systems on which we depend, such as schemes to pay tropical countries for maintaining their rainforests;

· a “Green New Deal” with massive investments in energy efficiency and renewables, creating “green collar jobs” in a low-carbon economy;

· reform of the economy, with greater regulation of capital markets, green taxes, and an end to the unsustainable pursuit of economic growth as an end in itself.

And he says there are grounds for optimism. The scale of the collapse of the banking system and of government interventions in the markets has destroyed old dogmas. The mounting evidence of accelerating climate change leaves politicians with less and less space to hide. And with Barack Obama in the White House, the US is now willing to be part of the solution.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity. It may even be the last chance for capitalism to stake any kind of claim as the system best placed to help us navigate our way through to a sustainable future for nine billion people by 2050,” says Porritt.

Download now: Living within our Means