The Steady State Economy Conference

Workshop 1: Limiting resource use and waste production

Question: In a steady state economy, how will levels of resource use and levels of permitted pollution be agreed, monitored, and enforced?

Why: Indicators such as the ecological footprint suggest that levels of resource use and waste production are too high, resulting in the erosion of natural capital and a high chance of dangerous climate change. Markets have failed to prevent this situation from arising. To achieve a steady state economy, resource use and waste production must be stabilised and brought within ecological limits. For renewable resources such as fisheries and forests this means these resources should not be harvested faster than they can regenerate. For non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels, this means these resources should not be used faster than their waste products (i.e. CO2) can be assimilated. Since we live on a finite planet with limited resources, developed countries such as the UK must reduce their resource use and waste production if poorer countries are to have the ecological space to increase material consumption and alleviate poverty.

How: Approaches proposed to limit resource use and waste production in a steady state economy include: a cap-auction-trade system, a cap-and-share system, individual entitlement-based schemes like Tradable Energy Quotas, ecological tax reform, and regulation. Indicators proposed to monitor resource use and waste production include: the ecological footprint, material flows analysis (MFA), human appropriation of net primary production (HANPP), and CO2 emissions.

Victoria Johnson    Victoria Johnson (Speaker)

Victoria Johnson is head of the climate change and energy programme at nef. She currently leads a number of different projects that explore the interaction between climate change and social justice both in the UK and internationally. Her particular research interests include: the social impacts of technological ‘Magic Bullets’, energy equity, social justice and carbon trading, climate change and human rights, the feasibility of green/sustainable growth and potential changes to lifestyle, and politics and economics in a post-carbon world in the context of climate change policy and resource scarcity. She is also co-author of the recently published book Growth isn’t possible: why we need a new economic direction. Victoria holds a PhD in Atmospheric Physics from Imperial College, London.

Beth Stratford    Beth Stratford (Chair)

Beth Stratford has spent five years working as a climate campaigner, film-maker and researcher. Highlights include: directing the viral hit Cheat Neutral, researching and editing for the Lean Economy Connection, campaigning for 10:10 Global (current occupation), stopping a coal train outside Drax power station, producing a series of short films for Channel 4’s Iraq War season, and sourcing the archive footage for The Age of Stupid. Beth likes to read ecological economics books to unwind at the end of the day.

John Barrett John Barrett (Rapporteur)

John is a senior research fellow in the Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York, where he leads the Future Sustainability Programme that conducts research on understanding the impacts of both consumption and production patterns while also addressing the policy implications. John has advised numerous government departments, organisations and companies on sustainable consumption and production issues including the measuring of carbon footprints, having recently undertaken the carbon footprint of the NHS. John develops the most detailed set of material flow, Ecological Footprint and Carbon Dioxide Emissions accounts for the UK that form part of DEFRA’s evidence base. John also appreciates the political implications of these issues, having developed policy tools that are being used by over 80 government agencies to assess the effectiveness of policy decisions. He is an advisor to a number of government departments across the world.

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