Triodos Bank exec: climate transition needed to avoid ‘stagnant societies’
Hans Stegeman argues that shift in economic model must be driven for environmental factors and due to a widely changing society
There must be a focus on 'post-growth' societies in the future for both climate and practical reasons, according to a leading Dutch economist.
Hans Stegeman, chief economist at the Netherlands-headquartered Triodos Bank, argues that this should result in changes to the taxation system that focus more on areas such as stopping damage to biodiversity and correcting excessive wealth imbalances.
“Almost all Western economies are to become stagnant societies in terms of economic growth. We have demographic changes of aging that leads to less labour supply, and energy which will not become cheaper," he said.
“We have to think about the postgrowth system if we want it or not, not only because people care about the environment, but because we have to [as an economic reality]”, Stegeman added.
Stegeman is responsible for economic and sustainability research at Triodos as well as the bank’s impact strategy. He previously worked at Rabobank as chief economist, the CPB (the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis) and labour union ABVAKABO.
His remarks were made at an online summit hosted by environmental law charity Client Earth, which looked to bring together experts, partners and peers to explore ways of taking environmental action.
Also speaking on the topic of 'Imagining an economy that protects the planet', Tariq Al-Olaimy, co-founder of Public-Planet Partnerships, observed that we are yet to achieve an economy in which growth is “decoupled” from ensuing increased carbon emissions.
“Right now we don’t have an economy that is decoupled from the melting of the icebergs. We don't have an economy that is decoupled from the destruction of nature. We don't have an economy that is decoupled from the burning of the Amazon," he noted.
“The solution starts from a macroeconomic lens of saying, what is the actual type of decoupling that we need? That is the kind of an economy that is going to be in sync and in tune with the rest of the natural world.”
During the discussion Agata Meysner, president at Generation Climate Europe, a coalition of youth-led networks, accused the current degradation of natural capital for short term economic gain as “literally stealing from future generations.”
Human rights and climate change
On a Client Earth Panel discussion on human rights and environmental protection, Vesselina Newman, lead of fundamental rights at Client Earth, noted an important case the NGO had covered in Uganda, looking for justice for a community impacted by a number of deadly landslides over the last decade.
According to Client Earth, the Ugandan Government has systematically failed to address the threat of landslides affecting local residents. In addition, the region is particularly vulnerable to landslide risks, which may become worse due to climate change.
The Uganda government has acknowledged in its National Climate Change Policy that severe weather events and landslides are increasing in frequency and intensity.
“The more severe the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution becomes, the more it harms fundamental rights”, said Newman.
At a discussion on ‘Bridging the divide - how to discuss climate change?’, Danielle Holly, associate director of leadership programs at the Aspen Institute, called for a “business transformation” in the approach to the climate transition.
“We need to invest resources and incentivise business transformation. There's a real impact of moving away from oil and gas, for example, for people and companies and so figuring out how to bring companies and people on that journey in a way that feels safe and innovative versus scary, I think is one thing that we can think about as individual leaders, particularly those that are in the private sector”, she said.
Last month, the UK High Court decision dismissed a lawsuit brought by Client Earth against Shell's board of directors over risk management.