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Greening Economy, Graying Society

Author

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  • Lucas Bretschger

    (ETH Zurich, Switzerland)

Abstract

The challenges to achieving a sustainable future have not changed since the first edition of this book in June 2015. Yet, the conditions for successful policy making have evolved significantly. The historic Paris Agreement on climate change was ratified in record time and entered into force in 2016. In the same year, the world community reached the Kigali Agreement on the phase-out of HFC greenhouse gases. One thought that the world community was finally developing momentum in advancing global environmental policy. However, the elections of 2016 in the US – the country with the second-highest carbon emissions – show that resistance against environmental policies is not disappearing quickly. Forces aiming to keep traditional economic structures remain and have even regained political influence, culminating in the announced withdrawal of the US from the Paris climate treaty. Once more it becomes clear that nothing is certain and completed in the global efforts directed at achieving a sustainable economy. We are reminded that uncertainty, a central chapter of the book, is not restricted to ecology and technology but also plays a major role in the area of policy. Nevertheless, prospects for raising environmental protection re-main remarkably stable. It is much easier to get short-run popular sup-port in oral debates than actually changing existing agreements or redirecting basic trends in the economy. While newly elected politicians make statements like “Nobody knew it could be so complicated” environmental economists are well aware of the various difficulties in changing basic trends in technology and policy. It is indeed striking that the greening of the economy is making progress even when current political support is not particularly stable. The concern that new political majorities will rapidly affect global de-carbonization trends did not materialize, at least not so far. The process of global climate efforts is more robust than previously expected. In planning their investments, market participants are increasingly convinced that the days of environmental neglect will come to an end. They are now more willing to support green policy solutions ensuring that everybody is operating under the same conditions. Moreover, new technologies support the switch to cleaner production. The transition from fossil-based to electric mobility is gaining rapid momentum, especially in the important markets. The current progress of clean technologies would not have been initiated without strong policy signals. These will continue to be very effective and necessary in the future. The results of the research presented in this book can hopefully serve as a foundation for the different approaches to sustainability policy. In the second edition the book includes an assessment of recent political developments, extends the previous text at various places, and provides an update of the used literature. As before, the focus is on the mechanisms that can induce a transition to a green economy, while the graying society is used as a metaphor for a large world population only sluggishly changing its rules toward the natural environment. I argue in the book that the real sustainability problem of humankind is neither ageing nor mere population size but rather a lack of willingness to change the economy’s structure into a more sustainable one. This may even hold true when the technologies for a green economy are already available or close to completion. The book aims to provide novel ideas to rethink current positions, in particular on the costs of abandoning a fossil-based economy and on the benefits of developing a green economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Lucas Bretschger, 2018. "Greening Economy, Graying Society," CER-ETH Press, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich, edition 2, number 18-001.
  • Handle: RePEc:eth:epress:18-001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Ingrid Ott & Susanne Soretz, 2018. "Green Attitude and Economic Growth," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 70(4), pages 757-779, August.
    3. Lucas Bretschger, 2017. "Equity and the convergence of nationally determined climate policies," Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Springer;Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies - SEEPS, vol. 19(1), pages 1-14, January.
    4. Rauscher, Michael, 2019. "Demographic change and climate change," Thuenen-Series of Applied Economic Theory 160, University of Rostock, Institute of Economics.
    5. Mare Sarr & Joëlle Noailly, 2017. "Innovation, Diffusion, Growth and the Environment: Taking Stock and Charting New Directions," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 66(3), pages 393-407, March.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • Q50 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - General

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