Tribune. The growth debate comes both at the worst and at the best time. At best, because it is high time to question the purposes of our economic model. At worst, because our public debate is incapable of supporting the slightest nuance. However, it is indeed nuance that we will have to arm ourselves if we want to avoid the deadlock to which the opposition between green growth and decline leads us.
On the one hand, the supporters of degrowth explain to us that it is urgent to “Decrease” due to the correlation between growth and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If they are right about the diagnosis, they neglect too much how this discourse can be perceived.
Indeed, for many people, the reference to degrowth acts as a foil, conveying an imaginary of deprivation. Its detractors do not fail to caricature it as a forced return to the candle. A particularly effective speech, because we have been collectively conditioned by the importance of growth and by the fear of its disappearance.
It is also difficult to talk about reducing consumption to people who have never been able to fully taste it. And if this is true in France, let’s not even talk about the countries which have not had access to the same development possibilities, because we have deprived them of their “right to pollute”.
On the other hand, the heralds of green growth explain to us that it would be possible to decouple GHG emissions and growth, in other words to produce more while polluting less, thanks to technical progress. Despite certain innovations, the promise of decoupling enabled by a technological breakthrough remains a pipe dream.
The European Environment Agency believes that decoupling seems ” unlikely “, reminds that“No scientific consensus has ever emerged over the years” and that in order to reach our climate goals, we will be forced to put growth aside.
Betting on decoupling would therefore be irresponsible, while the entire scientific community agrees on the urgent need to act to limit the impact of climate change. But we cannot completely disqualify the logic underlying this discourse, namely the fear of renouncing prosperity. But do growth and prosperity still go hand in hand? Nothing is less certain as we have observed, in our developed economies, a disconnect between the evolution of gross domestic product (GDP) and that of well-being for more than forty years.
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