Workshop 3: Transitioning to an economy for people and planet

Wednesday, 12 June 2019, 14:30 – 17:30/ JDE 63

Organised by: European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Social Platform, European Foundation Centre (EFC), Sustainable Development Observatory (SDO)

Main moderator: Kélig Puyet, Director, Social Platform

14.30 – 14.50: Keynote 1: Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development and Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), University of Surrey

14:50 – 15:15: Short presentation about the topic of the circles

  • Nick Meynen, European Environmental Bureau EEB
  • François Denuit, Doctor in political and social sciences, University of Warwick and Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
  • Jon Cracknell, JMG Foundation

15.15 – 16.45: Circles on specific topics: 3 in parallel. Presentation, discussion, recommendations.

  • Circle 1: Measuring what matters to thrive within planetary constraints
  • Circle 2: 21st century tax redistribution and public investments
  • Circle 3: Challenges and opportunities in funding for the environment

16:45 – 17:00: Coffee break

17:00 – 17:20: Plenary wrap-up and summary of the recommendations

17:20: Concluding remarks by the main moderator

Circle 1: Measuring what matters to thrive within planetary constraints
The European Commission tells Member States to produce a GDP growth budget, but GDP includes goods and services detrimental to human wellbeing and excludes human progress indicators and healthy ecosystems. New Zealand recently did away with the prevailing GDP approach and went for a wellbeing budget, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explained in Davos. They stopped sacrificing the environment and people on the altar of GDP growth. The EU must do the same.
Background: Post-growth conference at the EP; open letter from 238 post-growth economists, Vienna Vehicles, OECD report: Beyond GDP: Measuring what counts for economic and social performance.

Circle 2: 21st century tax redistribution and public investments
A greener AND redistributive future can only be achieved if we put social and environmental justice at the core of interaction between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As we can see from the recent "Gilet Jaunes" uprising, badly-designed policies for climate change mitigation are counterproductive for society. Fiscal reforms and innovation need to be fair when assessing the cost of negative externalities (e.g. emissions, pollution, use of finite resources, products harmful to health) and they need to generate resources for investment in public goods that reduce inequality.
Background: the distributional effects of climate policies, Heat, Greed and Human Need: Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing, Report of the Independent Commission for Sustainable Equality.

Circle 3: Challenges and opportunities in funding for the environment
Inspired by the report Environmental Funding by European Foundations: Volume 4, participants will discuss the capacity of environmental organisations across Europe, their challenges and opportunities. Accordingly to the report, the shrinking space for civil society organisations is a major threat, linked to the rise of populist and far right parties.
Background: Environmental Funding by European Foundations: Volume 4


Of all the challenges humanity faces today, rising inequality and ecological breakdown are key. If left unchecked, the latter has the potential to wipe out the human species. However, the state of inequality in Europe is also appalling, with 1 in 4 either poor or at risk of poverty. Recent civic movements, from yellow vests to school strikes for climate, illustrate how the social and environmental crises are connected. Rising inequalities and climate inaction are also closely linked to redistribution of resources and wealth. Smarter investments and a more progressive taxation system and tackling tax avoidance and evasion will reduce unfairness. A sustainable food system for all would also be a practical way to address the cross-cutting issues of sustainable development. After all, the food we eat, the ways we produce it and the amounts of it wasted have major impacts on human health, on natural resources and on society as a whole.

Meanwhile, there is a growing realisation that GDP growth is not a measure of progress but an indicator of our incapacity to measure what really matters. Our societies could prioritise greater equality and human and ecological wellbeing by making a shift away from this measure of "accumulation" towards a more complex set of indicators on economic security, social inclusiveness, gender equality, environmental responsibility and civic empowerment. Countries from Bhutan to New Zealand have already taken the lead in this matter.

Come along to discuss these issues and help us to make solid recommendations to the new European Commission on how to transition to an economy that works for people and planet.

Work organisation


Transitioning to an economy for people and planet