GDP no longer reliable as economic index, EESC claims

At a side event on the final day of the Copenhagen Climate Conference, Stéphane Buffetaut, President of the EESC’s Sustainable Development Observatory, said: “If policy makers remain wedded to GDP as their primary way of thinking about the future, they will miss a large part of what people really want – true well-being. This is why the EESC supports initiatives like the Stiglitz report and the further work of the OECD and the European Commission on these issues. Without new means of measurement we shall sleepwalk towards the future like blind people.”

The meeting, which took place at the Eu ropean Environment Agency, heard presentations of current work in the OECD, the EEA, the European Commission and in the UK Sustainable Development Commission. After a lively debate, there was wide agreement that the world needs to move beyond GDP as a measure of the well-being of society and human progress. GDP is all very well as a measure of economic activity, but it fails to capture the true goals of human society and can mislead us in pursuing illusory or destructive objectives.

The growing threat of destructive climate change illustrates this problem very clearly. Over the past 50 years all countries have devoted themselves to continuous economic growth but have largely ignored the growing pressure that this was placing on the planet’s ecosystems and the birthrights of future generations. Now at last in Copenhagen world leaders are beginning to face up to the perils of the growing accumulations of CO-2 in the atmosphere and the depletion of the fossil fuel reserves that will remain for future generations. We are beginning to recognise the necessity of making a transition to a new type of low carbon economy built around less consumption of material resources and more around the delivery of social and ecosystem services.

Concluding the meeting, Derek Osborn, vice-President of the SDO, foresaw new opportunities to incorporate this new thinking in the forthcoming European strategy for 2020. Looking further ahead he proposed that the world should set itself the objective of creating a new measurement framework in time for widespread adoption at the recently announced UN Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 which will be assessing progress on sustainable development 20 years after the first Earth Summit.”

EESC delegation to the Copenhagen conference w as made up of three Members: Stéphane Buffeteaut (Employers’ Group, France), Ernst Erik Ehnmark (Employees Group, Sweden) and Derek Osborne (Various Interests Group, United Kingdom).

At its November plenary session, the EESC adopted a resolution “No turning back”, which was submitted United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen

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