Study: Health and climate protection need priority over growth

The scientists around Helmut Haberl and Dominik Wiedenhofer from the Institute for Social Ecology at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (Boku) Vienna have viewed around 11,000 articles for their two meta-analyzes published in the journal “Environmental Research Letters”, which examined the relationship between economic growth, resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. They are convinced that their results, which are ultimately based on more than 800 relevant empirical studies, are necessary for the post-Corona crisis Stimulus programs can give important suggestions. At the center of such programs should be climate and Environmental goals stand, the researchers emphasize in a broadcast.

Promote growth – conserve resources

In order to achieve the ambitious climate targets, the concept of “decoupling” is generally pursued. The strategy is to promote economic growth while reducing the consumption of natural resources and greenhouse gas emissions. If the use of resources or emissions increases less strongly than the gross domestic product (GDP), the scientists speak of a “relative decoupling”.

According to the analysis, this is often found in the use of materials and emissions, but not in the use of energy. It was also shown that resource consumption and emissions tend to decrease in absolute terms only during major crises or during periods of low economic growth. And because of international trade, resources and emissions are often consumed or released in distant countries, but the goods and services are ultimately consumed in wealthy countries.

In any case, the scientists emphasize that absolute reductions in resource consumption and emissions that are necessary in the long term could not be achieved through previously observed decoupling rates. This requires strict implementation of absolute reduction goals and prioritization of health, well-being and Climate protection about growth at any cost.

Climate neutral infrastructure

For Haberl “massive public investments in climate-neutral infrastructures are essential for decoupling”. This is also relevant for stimulus packages after the end of the corona pandemic. Wiedenhofer believes it is “important to finally create true costs, for example through a CO2 price, so that clean management pays off and climate-damaging industries pay the true price of their activities”. In addition, “environmentally harmful activities – for example lignite mining – and the disproportionate political support for air traffic or the automotive industry would have to be brought down in a targeted manner”.


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