Costing London’s Growth

While this event has already passed, you may find links to individual speaker presentations and the discussion below.

All speakers emphasized the need for more enabling policies and conditions allowing people to make sustainable lifestyle choices. How certain individuals naturally act as catalysts for change within communities is now seen as a potentially important ‘mechanism’ to drive sustainability. This is the focus of a recently funded project in the UK. Similarly, the need for more civic action and the potential for ‘progressive minorities’ to effect political change was highlighted. The London congestion charge was cited as an example of where this has happened. Reasons that city-region level action on sustainability is now generally stronger than at nation state level was discussed. There was debate about how decisive existing big business will be in the transition to sustainability. More broadly, the problem of a lack of an aspirational ‘post-growth’ vision revealed itself as an underlying theme of the event: there was a sense of pessimism among the audience, with several people citing the challenges posed by human self-interest and achieving economic justice. There was the suggestion that there is insufficient understanding among the public and even policy makers about what an ‘ecological footprint’ is (literally ‘what is coming in against what is going out’, akin to a bank balance with overshoot of planetary boundaries representing a kind of debt). Future meetings will revisit these issues and the problem of addressing London’s ‘ecological footprint’. A draft alternate London plan for an ecological economy is in development and has been added to Google docs. People are invited to contribute to it. It is hoped it will help strengthen the movement for London’s ecological economy and generate recommendations to input into public consultations.


The built in drive for continual economic growth has social and environmental costs and has passed the point where costs outweigh benefits. A solution is to live within the limits of what nature can provide and process; from that perspective must come re-evaluation and economic transformation. To ensure ecological stability–on which social justice also depends–means making sure all resource use is kept in equilibrium with nature’s regeneration and waste assimilation capacities. “Greening” the economy using renewables, the reuse and “upcycling” of resources and overall smart design cannot ensurestability without constraints to enable nature to self-regulate. Efficiency alone solves little while growth at any cost continues. In short, the use of renewable resources cannot exceed natural replacement rates and the use of non-renewables cannot be faster than alternatives can be found.

Like most urban centers, London is not on a sustainable trajectory and it has been over ten years since the Mayor’s office/Greater London Authority made public any discussion of ‘ecological footprints’. Yet, cities are at the leading edge of planetary sustainability and already create more than 80% of world GDP. Intercity networking is also creating a new internationalism: on climate change intercity cooperation is now more important than amongst nation states. Worldwide, there are examples of constraints being implemented, including: the zero waste targets of some US cities (Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco), cities such as Vancouver, and a few nations, including Iceland and Bhutan, are putting these ideas into practice. The concept of a “steady state” economy is also gaining traction as the structural stresses of the growth model start to show through the overall quality of growth.

We will be talking about step changes to ensure London assumes full responsibility for its ‘ecological footprint’. This is not a debate about whether growth should be ‘shut down’. Rather, the emphasis is about ensuring economic activity can safely continue. Once the economy is brought into equilibrium with natural processes the extent to which ‘GDP’ grows is dependent on the extent that technology can add value to resources. The challenge is breaking the link between prosperity and over consumption of resources fast enough. As well as comprehensive audits of environmental performance, questions to be addressed include: What does environmental restructuring mean for business and public planning? Are existing tools sufficient to address resource depletion or are structural and institutional changes required? What would sustainable living in London be like for residents? Should London replace ‘growth’ with ‘quality of life’ as a core aim? Ultimately, what needs to be done to ensure that the capital’s future is both sustainable and abundant?

There is a wide range of possible answers to all these questions and no-one really knows for sure what life in a fully sustainable world would be like. A number of people have tried to envisage it. Come and hear experts discuss their work and help broaden the dialogue.

This is a free event but please email to confirm places.


Attend to:

  • Learn why the quality of economic growth of previous decades is no longer assured
  • Understand how cities are transitioning to strong sustainability
  • Find out what residents and the corporate sector can gain from the “steady state” solution
  • Network with others interested in London’s sustainable development

Aims & Objectives:

  • Strengthenresource constraints reducing London’s ‘ecological footprint’
  • Develop the civic movement for London’s ecological economy
  • Generate London position statements for unilateral action


  • 5:45-6pm: Arrivals
  • 6pm: Welcome & opening remarks from Desmond Kilroy, CASSE London chapter
  • 6:10 pm: Individual speakers’ contributions
  • 7pm-8pm Chaired open discussion
  • 8-8:45pm: Drinks reception

How to get to Limehouse Town Hall, 646 Commercial Road, LONDON E14 7HA (Zone 2)
By underground: Canary Wharf Station on the Jubilee Line (10 minutes’ walk)
By DLR: From Bank St. or Tower Gateway to Limehouse DLR Station (5 minutes’ walk)
By bus: Routes 15; 115; 135; D3 and night routes N15; N550 and N551 serve Limehouse Station

If you have any questions about the COSTING LONDON’S GROWTH event, contact
Desmond Kilroy.