By Sahra Kress
There is increasing interest in how a degrowth transition might actually be implemented. People are keen to understand more about how degrowth might actually be achieved. Below are some policy ideas.
When degrowth advocates describe the kinds of social and policy changes needed to voluntarily achieve the necessary level of throughput reductions required, the challenges become clear. However some proposed changes are quite reasonable and could be implemented relatively painlessly in rich countries around the world. For example:
Legislate extended warranties on products, so that goods like washing machines and refrigerators last for 30 years instead of ten.
Ban planned obsolescence and pass “right to repair” laws so that products can be fixed cheaply and without proprietary parts.
Legislate reductions in food waste.
Enact a “fair share” wealth tax for high-income individuals.
Here are some proposals that the authors of one study describe as policy and consumer behavior changes required to stay within 1.5°C of warming without overshoot or carbon capture interventions:
Decrease the share of passenger car transport by 81% in Global North urban areas by 2050.
Reduce ground freight transport by 62%.
Limit per-person air travel to one trip per year by 2025 and one trip every three years by 2050.
Reduce living space per person by 25%.
Reduce the average number of appliances in homes by 50%.
Decrease meat consumption in rich nations by 60% by 2030.
Reduce overall calorie consumption per person in high-income homes by 24% by reducing food waste and encouraging healthier diets.
Severely limit advertising and marketing to reduce pressures for material consumption.
End subsidies for fossil fuel companies.
Immediately implement Tradable Energy Quotas.
If goals like these are to be achieved voluntarily, national governments will need to implement aggressive social programmes to counter the inevitable reductions in many industries we take for granted today. Just from the list above, we can envision huge declines in the auto, airline, freight, construction, agriculture, food, marketing, and (of course) energy sectors. Corporations in these sectors employ millions of people today. Should degrowth cause them to disappear or radically shrink (voluntarily or involuntarily), major social interventions will be required to
compensate for the subsequent economic disruptions.
Policies and programmes commonly mentioned by degrowth proponents include:
Government-directed scaling down of industries deemed ecologically destructive or lacking in social value (including, in one author’s words, “the production of SUVs, military arms, beef, private transportation, advertising and planned obsolescence”).
Government-directed rationing programmes to curtail consumption of unsustainable resources and redirect consumption to more sustainable alternatives.
Massive job retraining programmes to channel laid-off workers into more sustainable jobs and careers.
A shorter work week with full “living wage” compensation to maintain employment levels in the face of shrinking production in scaled-down economic sectors.
A universal basic income programme to sustain workers during periods of unemployment and job transition.
Much more progressive and aggressive tax systems to reduce income inequality and share national and international income more fairly.
Significant increases in taxes on wealth, carbon, landuse, resource extraction, and corporate profits.
A major expansion of public goods and services such as healthcare, education, transportation, and housing, to bring these resources more fully into the public domain, freeing them from access-control by private, profit-driven gatekeepers (i.e., corporations).
And there are more.. what is needed most, is for these ideas to be taken seriously, and for them to be worked out by policy people, on conjunction with robust deliberative democratic processes.