Open Letter published all over Europe on day 1 of the EP Beyond Growth Conference (15 May 2023)
You can read the letter with all the references and signatories at this link.
As political leaders gather for a second conference at the European Parliament on
how to move “beyond growth”, we, the undersigned academics and civil society
organisations, see the geopolitical crisis as an opportunity to disengage from the
socially and ecologically harmful growth competition and instead embrace a
There is no empirical basis indicating that it is possible to globally and sufficiently
decouple economic growth from environmental pressures. The pursuit of endless
economic growth by high income nations is a problem as it either reduces or cancels the
outcomes of environmental policies. The current climate chaos and unravelling web of
life on which our society depends is an existential threat to peace, water and food
security, and democracy.
Advancing to a post-growth economy is not only to survive, but also to thrive. This calls
for a democratically planned and equitable downscaling of production and consumption,
sometimes referred to as ‘degrowth’, in those countries that overshoot their ecological
resources. This is Europe’s global peace project, because its current economic growth is
causing conflicts both in and beyond Europe.
In the context of high-income nations, a smaller footprint does not mean worse living
conditions. Sufficiency policies focusing on frugality, resource reduction, and work time
reduction can significantly increase wellbeing and decrease environmental pressures,
therefore creating the possibility for sustainable prosperity without growth.
In order to ensure the highest quality of life with the lowest footprint, we must
completely change the goals and rules of the economic game. In a post-growth economy,
the current focus on quantitative growth would be replaced by the aim of thriving in a
regenerative and distributive economy, one that delivers qualitative wellbeing by meeting
the needs of all people within the means of the living planet – as elaborated in the
framework of Doughnut Economics.
The markets have proven to be ill-equipped to make the most crucial decisions in our
society. For the economy to serve the people, rather than the other way around, people
must be given back control over the economy. To change the rules of the game, we need
to learn from already existing initiatives. For example, upscaling across the EU the model
for not-for-profit cooperatives.
In light of these pressing challenges and stimulating opportunities, we call on the
European Union, its Institutions, and Member States to implement:
1. Post-growth European Institutions: constitute permanent structures at the
Commission, the Council, the Parliament, and within Member States to assess post-
growth strategies and pathways.
2. A European Green Deal beyond growth: design a new flagship programme shaped
around a systemic change approach that aspires to create a thriving future within
planetary boundaries, with degrowth as a necessary transition phase towards a post-
3. Beyond growth policies based on the four principles of:
• Biocapacity: fossil fuel phase-outs, limits to raw material extraction and nature
protection and restoration measures for healthy and resilient soils, forests,
marine and other ecosystems. E.g., a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, a
Resource Justice and Resilience Act including a binding material footprint
reduction target and real, area-based nature restoration.
• Fairness: fiscal instruments to foster a more equal society by eradicating income
and wealth extremes, as well as super-profits. E.g., a carbon wealth tax, both
minimum and maximum incomes.
• Wellbeing for all: secured access to essential infrastructures via an improved,
ecologically-sensitive welfare state. E.g., Universal Basic Services (including the
human rights to health, transport, care, housing, education and social protection
etc.), job guarantees, price controls for essential goods and services.
• Active democracy: citizen assemblies with mandates to formulate socially
acceptable sufficiency strategies and strengthen policies based on ecological
limits, fairness and wellbeing for all and a stronger role for trade unions. E.g.,
local needs forum, climate conventions, participatory budgeting.
It has been five years since the first “post-growth” conference. Within civil society
and academia, growth-critical ideas have been getting ever stronger. The details of
these ideas are being discussed in the European Parliament and with the European
Commission right now. Scientific knowledge and policy insights are available to
make the ideas of degrowth and post-growth a reality. The crises we face are also
opportunities to create a new system that can secure wellbeing for all while
allowing for a thriving democratic life and a slower yet sweeter mode of living.
Full References and signatures can be found in the pdf version.