Looking beyond (green) growth?

Watch the debate again

Presentation Steinberger

Presentation Bleys

Tuesday 10 December 2019 , from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
University of Antwerp - Stadscampus  
Rodestraat 14 - R.001 - 2000 Antwerpen (how to reach the city campus?)

Green growth, or the idea that we could grow our economy while preserving or even enhancing environmental conditions, is increasingly promoted as a silver bullet to tackle both economic and environmental crises. However, critical voices in recent debates contest one of the key arguments used by green growth advocates, and point out that ‘decoupling’ economic growth from negative environmental impacts is highly speculative and based on hypothetical models rather than on empirical evidence. In this event we discuss some of the key issues in these debates, and assess the possibilities and tensions between continued growth and sustainability. We focus on the main assumptions underlying mainstream views on ‘sustainable development’ and ‘green growth’, and assess them against emerging alternative agendas, such as ‘degrowth’ and eco-socialism.

Prof. Julia Steinberger (keynote speaker) researches and teaches in the interdisciplinary areas of Ecological Economics and Industrial Ecology. Her research examines the connections between resource use (energy and materials, greenhouse gas emissions) and societal performance (economic activity and human wellbeing). She is interested in quantifying the current and historical linkages between resource use and socioeconomic parameters, and identifying alternative development pathways to guide the necessary transition to a low carbon society. She is the recipient of a Leverhulme Research Leadership Award for her research project 'Living Well Within Limits' investigating how universal human well-being might be achieved within planetary boundaries. She is Lead Author for the IPCC's 6th Assessment Report with Working Group 3.

Before coming to the University of Leeds in 2011, Prof. Steinberger was a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Social Ecology in Vienna (SEC), where she investigated sustainable cities and the links between material use and economic performance. She has held postdoctoral positions at the Universities of Lausanne and Zurich, and obtained her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has published over 50 internationally peer-reviewed articles since 2009 in journals including Nature Climate Change, Nature Sustainability, WIRES-Climate Change, Environmental Science & Technology, PLOS ONE and Environmental Research Letters.

Prof. dr. Brent Bleys (discussant) is associate professor at the department of Economics of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University. He lectures on macroeconomics, statistical analysis, sustainable development and environmental economics and policy. His research focuses on alternative indicators for economic welfare, such as the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) and for well-being (happiness measures) that take into account the interconnectedness of the economic system and the natural environment in which the economy is set. This research is cast in the broader Beyond GDP debate that questions the necessity of economic growth as the ultimate goal for economic theory and looks for policy alternatives from an ecological economic perspective. He is also a scientific representative at the Federal Council for Sustainable Development (Belgium) where he chairs the working groups on “Strategy" and "Financing the transition". Brent Bleys holds a PhD in applied economic sciences and a master’s degree in commercial engineering.

Prof. dr. Gert Van Hecken (moderator) is assistant professor in international cooperation and development at the Institute of Development Policy (IOB), University of Antwerp. During the past ten to fifteen years he has spent most of his time in Nicaragua, working as a (post)doctoral researcher on social-environmental change and rural development, and previously as the country representative for the Belgian development NGO Broederlijk Delen. His main research interests lie in the global and local nexus between the environment and processes of social change, and more specifically in the socio-political dynamics triggered by (international) conditional climate change/development finance instruments, such as carbon and biodiversity markets, Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), and green microfinance.