The Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) group now consists of five key governments: Scotland, Finland, Iceland, Wales and New Zealand. There has been such momentum from the WEGo partnership – other governments are following their lead. Below are a few updates of some of the exciting advancements in this space.
Canada included a wellbeing/quality of life framework in their 2021 budget which you can see here. They have just had an election, so watch this space for any more momentum a refreshed government may bring.
Norway has just announced a new wellbeing strategy. They also have a new government- but the strategy predates it. More here
ZERO, a Portuguese based member, hosted an event a few months ago with speakers from the OECD, Scotland’s chief economist and Katherine Trebeck putting collective wellbeing into policymaking. You can watch the video here:
The European Environment Bureau and Oxfam Germany have recently launched a paper about the Wellbeing Economy agenda..
The Club of Rome recently launched a paper about reframing economics toward wellbeing.
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The former Chief Economist of The Treasury in New Zealand has written a book examining the processes by which wellbeing-focused public policy objectives can be established, prioritised, funded, implemented, managed, and evaluated.
Professor Girol Karacaoglu is Head of the School of Government at Victoria University of Wellington and was previously New Zealand’s Chief Economist of The Treasury. Before then, he was the Chief Executive of PSIS (then Co-operative Bank of New Zealand) for nine years. His new book asks:
HOW WOULD WE DESIGN, IMPLEMENT AND EVALUATE PUBLIC POLICY IF IT WERE BASED ON OUR LOVE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS?
For the philosopher Water Kaufman, ‘I love you’ means:
I want you to live the life that you want to live. I will be as happy as you if you do; and as unhappy as you if you don’t.
Professor Karacaoglu said that ‘wellbeing is about the ability of individuals and communities to live the lives they value – now and in the future. This is their human right. It would be extremely unjust to prevent the enjoyment of lives centred on chosen values. Preventing such injustice across generations should be the focus of a public policy that has intergenerational wellbeing as its objective.’
‘Half of the net revenue from sales of this book will be donated to The Nest Collective, which gives baby and children’s essentials to families in need’, he said.
Tuwhiri publisher Ramsey Margolis said that ‘while humanity may well come to grips with the current pandemic in the foreseeable future, ballooning inequalities and injustice threaten to shred the fabric of our societies, and the climate emergency menaces all life forms on the planet.
‘In the face of these enduring humanity-induced catastrophes, we owe a special duty of care to future generations to overcome them, and to leave our successors with a safer, fairer world in which they may thrive. We need to express our care for coming generations in many ways, from changing own personal lifestyles, to choosing political representatives who advance cogent, long-sighted policies in aid of a better world.”
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Finland joins the leading group of Wellbeing Economy Governments
This week we received great news when the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health announced that Finland had joined the international Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) network. The news is particularly good for SOSTE Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health (an umbrella organization of Finnish NGOs from the social and health sector) which has been promoting the wellbeing economy approach for several years.
By joining the WEGo partnership, Finland will be increasingly involved in discussions with New Zealand, Scotland, Iceland, and Wales around how societies can be built to ensure wellbeing for all people, despite the great challenges of our time.
Civil society as a catalyst of cooperation
The news of Finland joining WEGo is also exciting for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, a civil society network of which SOSTE has been a member since Spring 2019, as the Alliance has been instrumental in the creation of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership. Apart from countries being able to engage in wellbeing economy initiatives, the network has offered to its member organizations, foundations, and individuals an arena to reflect together on the need for actions orientated towards wellbeing.
Due to this cooperation SOSTE, for example, has reinforced the idea that without securing ecological sustainability future wellbeing cannot be ensured. In many respects, the change we need is greater than what could be achieved solely by SOSTE’s work on wellbeing economy, which has mostly concentrated on health policy and social policy issues. A sectoral perspective, or even a national perspective, is not sufficient – a wellbeing economy must be built globally and with all people and the whole planet in mind.
Together we can build a wellbeing economy
Given the extent of the required actions, no actor can succeed in building a wellbeing economy alone. It is, therefore, important to involve also governments and civil servants around the world in this joint effort.
In the case of Finland, the wellbeing economy was one of the main themes during the country’s EU Presidency, and in recent months the wellbeing economy approach has really found its place in the central government’s agenda. A Wellbeing Economy group has just been established in the Public Health Advisory Board, and ministries and other state institutions have also been engaged around the issue of wellbeing economy. It is excellent that this work can now be shared and benchmarked with the other WEGo governments.
Wellbeing economy for a better future
When the acute coronavirus crisis is over, we will have again the opportunity to consider the next steps that should be taken to build up wellbeing economies and support people’s wellbeing around the world.
SOSTE, social and health sector NGOs and global civil society are ready to continue to provide solutions that strengthen and expand the wellbeing economy. It is possible that in following years this effort will be embraced by other countries as well, as the global dialogue around the wellbeing policy and wellbeing economy evolves. This gives hope for a better tomorrow.
On Wednesday, 28th October, Holyrood and the RSA held their online conference, “Scotland: The Recovery”. Chaired by WEAll Scotland trustee Sarah Deas, the event provided an opportunity for the public, private, and third sectors to gather and discuss how Scotland can move forward and build a post-pandemic society that works for everyone.
After initial remarks from Sarah, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister, opened the event by sharing her aspirations for a wellbeing economy. Acknowledging that economic policy should be “a means, not an end”, the First Minister called for the people of Scotland to work together to deliver an economy that places “wellbeing alongside wealth”—not just as an afterthought, but as a vital part of Scotland’s post-pandemic economy.
Also speaking by video address was Rt. Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, UK Government. The Minister also emphasised his commitment for a green recovery.
In other words, now is the moment for a wellbeing economy.
Throughout the day, there were numerous discussions, panels, and guest speakers (including WEAll’s Advocacy and Influencing Lead, Katherine Trebeck). The dominant theme was everyone’s shared commitment to taking wellbeing economy ideas and discussing how best to turn them into permanent, lasting reforms.
Sarah explained the shared vision of a wellbeing economy in her opening remarks:
“With nations across the world taking unprecedented steps to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for the global economy and society is bleak, with many challenges ahead. It’s also widely acknowledged that climate change poses a major threat, placing further crises on the horizon. So, as we seek to build back better, we must do so in a manner that builds resilience and addresses what’s not working in the current economic paradigm.
“It requires us to ask fundamental questions and explore ‘radical’ solutions. How do we design a recovery that doesn’t embed inequality? How do we move to a regenerative economy, rather than one that is ecologically destructive?
How do we design a recovery that doesn’t embed inequality? How do we move to a regenerative economy, rather than one that is ecologically destructive?
“In other words, how do we build a ‘wellbeing economy’, transforming our economic system so that it delivers social justice on a healthy planet—the first time round.
“This requires us to consider questions like, what kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.
What kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.
“It’s recognised that greater emphasis needs to be placed on the root causes of societal problems—leading to ‘upstream’ preventative measures—rather than focusing mainly on ‘downstream’ measures, which involve cleaning up and redistributing after the fact. Whilst the latter are also important in the short term, we won’t escape the downward spiral by patching up after the event. Instead, we need upstream systems change.
“As a founding member of the WEGo partnership, alongside Iceland and New Zealand, Scotland is already at the forefront of global efforts to build a new, inclusive economy focused on societal and environmental wellbeing.
“So how do we do it? Today’s Holyrood event, in partnership with the RSA, brings together policymakers and thought leaders to explore that key question.”
As the conference came to an end, the closing keynote came from Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, The Scottish Government. She spoke to Holyrood back in August about Scotland’s desire “to create a strong, resilient wellbeing economy”, and the need is just as prevalent today.
There’s still lots of work to do, but it truly is promising to see the wave of support for economic systems change that benefits everyone—including the key workers on whom we’ve relied so greatly this year.
Earlier this month, the WEGo partnership was featured in the 2020 edition of WWF’s Nature In All Goals publication, which outlines how we can restore our relationship with nature to realise the promise of the SDGs and Leave No One Behind.
Individually, the 17 SDGs define key areas of progress for humanity. Delivered together, they will transform the world and create prosperity for all on a healthy planet.
The publication gives inspirational examples of where each of the 17 SDGs have been put into practice – ranging from Supporting Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and Communities in Myanmar to Renewable energy solutions for better health and energy security in Karachi, Pakistan.
In WEAll’s article, we discussed how to shift toward a Sustainable and Just economy – one that promotes wellbeing for all.
Action on the SDGs in the next ten years is not possible without a fundamental transformation of our economic system.
In order to do this, WEAll’s membership has developed the 5 priorities a wellbeing economy should deliver on.
‘We All Need’:
Dignity: Everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety and happiness
Nature: A restored and safe natural world for all life
Connection: A sense of belonging and institutions that serve the common good
Fairness: Justice in all its dimensions at the heart of economic systems, and the gap between the richest and poorest greatly reduced
Participation: Citizens actively engaged in their communities and locally rooted economies.
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Blog by Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir, WEAll Ambassador and Professor of Sustainability Science at the University of Iceland
June 2, 2020
A few years ago a guy called me up in Iceland and asked: “Why do the leftists own the environment?“ My answer was: “They do not but they have taken environmental issues to the forefront of their politics. All parties should do that.“ He went on to found the Right Green Party which never took foothold in Icelandic politics. But it was a step in the right direction. Healthy environment and sustainability is tantamount for everyone’s wellbeing.
I was party to a similar discussion in an international WhatsApp group recently: “Why is it that left-wing governments are promoting the wellbeing agenda? In doing so it will be rejected by those to the right in politics.“
My response was: “In Iceland there is a broad political base behind the new wellbeing policy which has a focus on prosperity and quality of life and is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development goals.“
Our Prime Minister is from the Left Green Movement, but her coalition government encompasses the whole political spectrum – with the Independence Party (conservative right wing) led by Bjarni Benediktsson who is Minister of Finance and and Economic Affairs, and the Progressive Party led by Sigurður Ingi Jóhannesson and is Minister of Transport and Local Government.
This broad based coalition government agreed the Wellbeing policy agenda in April 2020. It has 39 wellbeing indicators that are to be collected and followed by Statistics Iceland. This is very important when considering what may happen in the next election – when the Left Greens may no longer lead the government. Then the wellbeing agenda is already engrained in policy with civil servants and public institutional support.
In Scotland, the wellbeing economy agenda is being supported and followed by the National Performance Framework (NPF) which was presented to the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon is from the Scottish National Party (SNP) – which is considered to be a centre-left party and wants Scotland to become independent and and have closer ties with Europe and the EU.
Importantly, the NPF was passed unanimously with support from all five political parties in the Scottish Parliament. Again, with this broad base of support in parliament the wellbeing economy agenda has a chance to survive if the next elections do not return the SNP as the leading party.
In New Zealand, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set the first wellbeing budget world-wide in May 2019 with a central question – how well are our people? The focus is on five priority areas where evidence indicates greatest opportunities to improve the lives of New Zealanders. The PM´s political party is Labour (left). Labour is in a coalition government with the New Zealand First Party (right wing) and the Green Party (left wing). This again, is a broad-based political coalition, giving strength to the wellbeing agenda.
Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand are all members of WEGo – the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership – which is an offspring of WEAll. A new member has just joined WEGo – Wales. The First Minister of Wales is Mark Drakeford and he leads the Labour (left wing) government in Wales. Wales has had the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act since 2015 that has seven wellbeing goals. Therefore the wellbeing agenda is firmly in Welsh policy – and has been set in law for five years.
The Wellbeing Economy agenda is therefore neither left wing nor right wing. It is for us all, so that all people and our planet can prosper. Now that governments across the globe are finding their feet to lead their nations out of the COVOD-19 health and economic crisis – let us remember that pandemics hit us all, wherever we stand in politics. We also know that we cannot go back to business as usual.
In the worlds of professor Frank Snowden, a historian: “By creating the myth that we could grow our economy exponentially and infinitely, by almost 8 billion people living on earth, excessive travel, environmental pollution, by pushing back nature more and more, we created almost ideal conditions for the coronavirus to emerge, spread and hit us especially hard.“
Let us join hands across political spectrums and make the Wellbeing Economy the new economy for the 21st century. Would you like to learn more? Then see the WEAll ten principles of Building Back Better.
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By Luca Coscieme, Katherine Trebeck and Lorenzo Fioramonte
The Covid crisis seems to confirm what policy analysts have argued for some time: female leadership may be more engaged on issues of social equality, sustainability and innovation, making societies more resilient to external shocks. We have run some statistical analyses on available data on the Coronavirus pandemic and a series of dimensions of public health, social progress, basic human needs and economic resilience, with stunning correlations.
First of all, current data shows that countries with women in a leadership position have suffered six times fewer confirmed deaths from Covid-19 than countries with governments led by men. Moreover, female-led governments were more effective and rapid at flattening the epidemic’s curve, with peaks in daily deaths roughly six times lower than in countries ruled by men. Finally, the average number of days with confirmed deaths was 34 in countries ruled by women and 48 in countries with male-dominated governments.
Of course, correlation is not causation, but when we look at most female-led governments’ approach to the crisis, we find similar policies that may have made a difference vis-à-vis their male counterparts: they did not underestimate the risks, focused on preventative measures and prioritized long-term social wellbeing over short-term economic considerations.
Taiwan is a case in point, where the government of Prime Minister Tsai Ing-wen built on its previous experience with SARS to immediately introduce targeted measures and medical checks, which massively reduced the risk of an outbreak and therefore made a lockdown unnecessary, unlike in most other East Asian countries, including the equally small Singapore, which instead suffered several waves of contagion. New Zealand’s government of Jacinda Ardern was also prompt in implementing restrictive measures early on, resulting in limited contagion and a much shorter lockdown than neighbouring countries in the Pacific. A similar pattern occurred in Denmark, Norway and Finland, all ruled by women, as opposed to Sweden, where economic considerations trumped health concerns, resulting in the highest death toll per capita in Europe.
Over the past few years, most women-led governments have also placed a stronger emphasis on social and environmental wellbeing, investing more in public health and reducing air pollution (which seems to be closely associated with Covid deaths). Our analysis shows that countries with higher female representation in national parliaments perform better in terms of greenhouse gas emission reduction, air pollution containment and biodiversity conservation. Some of these governments have also launched an international alliance to promote ‘social and ecological wellbeing’ as the cornerstone of their economic policies. These are all important features that make societies more resilient vis-à-vis external shocks.
Basic Human Needs 2019 score (Nutrition and Basic Medical Care, Water and Sanitation, Shelter, Personal Safety), Source:Social Progress Imperative (left) – Gini coefficient of income distribution, Source: The World Bank (centre) – GDP growth rate per cent reduction forecasts for 2020, Source: European Commission and national central banks.
Against this backdrop, it is perhaps unsurprising that women-led countries are also likely to suffer the least from the ensuing economic recession: GDP growth forecasts for 2020 indicate that they will experience a decline lower than 5.5 percent, while countries with male leaders will shrink by over 7 percent.
There is probably not enough hard evidence yet to demonstrate that there is a clear ‘female factor’ at play, but we cannot simply dismiss such stark differences as casual. Some women leaders have understood that placing social and environmental wellbeing at the core of national policymaking has positive effects on society’s resilience and benefits the economy too. It’d be wise for their men colleagues to take note.
Notes:countries with female leaders include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece (President), Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Slovakia and Taiwan. Countries with male leaders include Austria, Bulgaria, Brazil, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.
Thanks go to Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir, Jacqueline McGlade, Ida Kubiszewski, Kate Pickett, Richard Wilkinson, Enrico Giovannini and Robert Costanza for their contributions to this article.
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Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop declared in Parliament yesterday that “the time of a wellbeing economy has well and truly arrived.”
Speaking about plans to get the Scottish economy moving again after the covid-19 lockdown, Hyslop was clear that business as usual should not be the default:
“We must be brave and bold and rethink the world of work,” she said as she outlines the three steps required to restart Scotland’s economy in 14 separate sectors, stressing that it must be done safely and will involve…
Measures to suppress the virus
Guidance that supports fair and safe workplaces
The right structures for workplace regulation
Encouragingly, she went on to say that we “need a revolution in economic thinking that stimulates and values cooperative sharing of risk and reward, to rethink what value is”.
While touching on workers’ rights, remote working and a green recovery, Ms Hyslop added that “collective endeavour” should replace “old thinking on battling over wealth distribution, which has never properly delivered”.
Scotland is one of four members of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership, alongside New Zealand, Iceland and Wales. Find out more about this initiative here and about WEAll Scotland – the dedicated Scottish hub of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance – here.
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BBC Radio Scotland has aired an in-depth feature exploring wellbeing economics, community wealth building and how Scotland can build back better post-covid.
Featuring interviews with WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck and WEAll member Sarah McKinley of the Democracy Collaborative, the report by BBC Scotland Economics Editor Douglas Fraser explores the need to reconsider our approach the economy.
Katherine says: “Our economy wasn’t delivering for enough people. Covid has shone a very harsh light on the economic system we had prior to the pandemic. It has created a necessity to look for different ways of doing things”
There is also a spotlight on the new Community Wealth Building strategy of North Ayrshire Council, an economic development approach which focuses on the needs of communities and building thriving local economies. WEAll Scotland’s Sarah Deas was this week named as Chair of the expert panel advising North Ayrshire’s approach – read more here.
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Today, two members of the WEAll Scotland team have been appointed to influential economic advisory roles in Scotland.
Dr Katherine Trebeck has been appointed to the Scottish Government’s Sustainable Renewal Advisory Group, and Sarah Deas is chairing the economic advisory panel for North Ayrshire Council’s pioneering Community Wealth Building Strategy.
The Sustainable Renewal Advisory Group is chaired by Environment and Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunninghame. It has been tasked with identifying opportunities to embed sustainability in Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19 and with exploring the new challenges and opportunities we face in achieving a 75% reduction in emissions within a decade.
Ms. Cunninghame said: “In anticipation of a ‘new normal’, we have a chance to re-imagine the Scotland around us, and to begin building a greener, fairer and more equal society and economy. Our starting point has most definitely changed but our ambitions need not and I remain deeply committed to our ambition to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045. ”
Joining Katherine on the panel are MSPs from all parties at Holyrood, and other expert leaders from across academia, industry, business, trades union and environmental organisations.
North Ayrshire Council launched their bold Community Wealth Building Strategy last Thursday – becoming the first in Scotland to adopt this economic approach – as they set out their radical new vision for shaping the economy now and post Covid-19.
The strategy sets out how the Council and other ‘anchor’ organisations – including NHS Ayrshire and Arran, Ayrshire College and wider partners – will work in partnership with communities and businesses to build a strong local economy which supports fair work, encourages local spend and uses the land and property we own for the common good.
And with such a new, different ‘take’ on how to galvanise and overhaul the local economy, the Council has enlisted the support of some important and well respected economic thinkers who lead in aspects of Community Wealth Building from across the globe.
Leading the Expert Panel will be WEAll Scotland trustee Sarah Deas.
Sarah said: “The vital work that North Ayrshire is doing in pioneering local economic development is even more important in these challenging times. I’m delighted to chair this expert advisory panel which will act as a critical friend in developing a model that spreads wealth within the community.”
Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire Council, said:
“This is one of the most progressive panels of economic experts that has been put together anywhere and we will tap into all their knowledge to put our CWB ambitions into action to deliver our new economic model. The knowledge, perspectives and ideas they bring will be important and timely given the economic crisis we are currently facing, and the climate crisis we’ll face moving forward”
Joining Sarah on the Expert Panel are: Miriam Brett, Common Wealth, Joe Guinan, The Democracy Collaborative, Laurie Macfarlane Economics Editor at openDemocracy, Ian Mitchell, Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS), Jess Thomas, Co-operatives UK, Roz Foyer, Scottish Trade Union Council, Sarah McKinley, The Democracy Collaborative and the Next System Project and Neil McInroy, the Centre for Economic Strategies.
This year started with masks and it is likely to end with masks.
As Scottish people woke up on Hogmanay morning, Australians were going to bed to the latest news of the bushfires spreading across the east coast of the country, taking people’s homes, wildlife and acres and acres of native vegetation with them.
In Australia’s capital city, Canberra, the rolling hills surrounding it meant smoke from nearby blazes settled in the city streets, endangering the lungs of locals. Many went out to buy masks and the ones of apparently high enough spec to filter out the carcinogenetic particles quickly sold out.
And now multiple governments are telling their citizens that wearing masks is part of the steps they need to take to control the transmission of covid-19, part of the so-called ‘new normal’ we’re all going to have to fall into step with.
And as lockdown measures are slowly, hesitantly wound back, attention is being turned to how economies can recover from one of the biggest kicks in the guts it is possible to imagine: workers and customers being told to stay home.
The stakes are high – people have lost jobs, businesses are no longer viable, and personal and government debts have stacked up. Emergency measures cannot continue indefinitely – in due course the direction is going to have to be set for the post-covid economy.
What covid-19 revealed was that the economy of pre-covid days was one that stood on the shoulders of an army of low paid workers eking out a livelihood in very precarious work. The early stages of lockdown revealed that what kept communities ticking over was the foundational economy, local supply chains, and the generosity and kindness of neighbours helping each other get by.
What will ensure Scotland builds back better? Certainly not reverting business as usual – in fact, that will be impossible, what is more likely is a more toxic economic model than the one of pre-covid days. So instead, what is necessary is a proactive, concerted effort to use all the levers the Scottish government has to create a wellbeing economy: one that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.
Scotland has already created of the mechanisms that can enable this – they’ve just been underutilised. Now is the time to breathe life into them, doubling down on the timid steps already being taken rather than ditching them with a misplaced deference to old way of doing things which didn’t require too much prodding to be revealed as inadequate.
Here are some examples:
Conditionality needs to be the name of the game in government support for businesses. Some businesses merit public funds because they are the sort of enterprises that can play a part in building a wellbeing economy. Some won’t and thus don’t. No business that is unable to demonstrate its relevance to the wellbeing economy agenda should be in line for public funds. But in making that real, fortunately the Scottish Government has a Business Pledge, sitting on the shelf quietly that could be bolstered and used as a lens through which to evaluate the requests for help. The work of Scottish Enterprise constitutes another nascent move that needs more oomph: nurturing more inclusive business models into existence and the 2019 shift in strategy to making ‘job-related grants contingent on fair work practices, including job security and payment of the real living wage’.
But in contrast to businesses, all people merit public support when the chips are down. So reskilling is needed to help people reposition themselves in a profoundly changed economic landscape. But not just reskilling but providing a backstop so people don’t slip too far as they step into the new reality, via robust social protection. Making permanent the improved resources made available through the Scottish Welfare Fund would be positive, but significantly increasing Child Benefit using Scotland’s scope to top up reserved benefits would provide the cushion that many families have been lacking in recent weeks.
Communities know what needs to be done: how their localities need to change and what sort of economy will be in service of that. So perhaps the best role of a post-covid state is to underwrite community-led solutions? Again, there are the glimmers of existing practice to build on – not least in the form of the Climate Challenge Fund. Ramping up such initiatives will ensure the activities that emerge as lockdown is lifted are those aligned with sustainability and community need.
Jobs themselves need to be redesigned – to deliver decent pay (it beggars belief that two in five care workers did not earn the real Living Wage as the corona crisis set in) and to distribute the available paid work more fairly across people who want it. The Scottish Government can encourage this through support for those firms that embrace employing more people rather than working fewer staff harder. For example, business rates could be recalibrated, subsidies and procurement could be better aligned with certain business practices, and basic bread and butter encouragement of necessary practices all matter.
Covid-19 and the economic disruption it has brought is no reason to put dealing with environmental breakdown on the backburner – in fact, it makes the need even more stark if the likes of Covid-32 and Covid-97 are to be kept at bay. Again, Scotland has the beginnings to build on: ambitious climate targets and the work of the Just Transition Commission to map a way to support communities while powering down those industries incompatible with a low carbon economy. The very existence of Zero Waste Scotland is something to celebrate – a post-covid economy needs to be a circular one. The just transition agenda needs to be at the heart of economic and social policy making as Scotland seeks ways to move into a new economic era without people being left on the wayside.
Other mechanisms that offer the means to bring about the sort of changes needed, were they just to be drawn on with more vigour, include the Sustainable Procurement duty, the Community Empowerment Act, and the community wealth building efforts. Community wealth building in particular, when combined with the efforts to bolster the population of inclusive business models flagged above, constitutes an important way to ‘get the economy to do more of the heavy lifting’ – or predistribute – resources in a way that is fairer than current circumstances allow.
The Citizens Assemblies – for example on Scotland’s future and on climate change – are examples of the sort of robust, deliberative mechanisms to distil and develop the views of people in Scotland. With the First Minister talking of having an ‘adult conversation’ about responding to covid-19, the test will be the extent to which they feed into policy decisions and become a core part of decision making strategy.
The goal of a wellbeing economy has been set in the National Performance Framework, the creation of WEGo, the First Minister’s TED talk, and the rhetoric about the February budget being a wellbeing budget (a dubious claim, but the sentiment counts for something).
If the NPF can be used more concertedly to guide the objectives of policy making and accountability of policy making, then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.
If the learnings from others can be harnessed via WEGo and if the bold statements in the First Minister’s TED talk create space for civil servants wanting to be part of the transformation necessary, then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.
And if next year’s budget truly is a wellbeing budget – featuring long term goals, cross-departmental collaboration, with an outcome focus and attending to root causes of wellbeing deficits – then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.
And that brings us to the task force set up to guide the government on economic recovery post-covid. Others have raised an eyebrow at its composition and lack of unusual suspects (and, dare we point out, the lack of expertise on addressing poverty and ways to bolster Scotland’s renewable sector, let alone an economic system change expert). This is surely an own-goal – diversity will enable better ideas. But not wanting to judge it prematurely, its merit will depend on the extent to which it discards outdated recipes, recognises the dual goals of social justice and sustainability and that the best initiatives deliver on both fronts to deliver collective wellbeing for current and future generations.
Scotland has the talk and the templates for building a wellbeing economy. There are tentative moves in the direction of what is necessary. Now is not the time to turn away from them. Now is the time to breathe life into them, roll them out, scale them out and up in order to build back better.
Katherine photo credit: Martin Oetting
Peter photo credit: Maverick photo agency[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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The Welsh Government has announced its official membership of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership.
In a statement by Jane Hutt, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, the government said:
“Covid-19 has dramatically changed our lives and will have a lasting and profound effect on all of us, on our economy, on our public services and on our communities. We cannot go back to business as normal, and need to plan for a Wales, shaped by the virus, that is more prosperous, more equal and greener, rooted in our commitment to social-economic and environmental justice. Last week, wejoined the Well-being Economy Government (WEGo) Network and will be working with Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand – who all have a shared ambition to deliver and improve well-being through their economic approach.”
Alongside Finland, Wales has already participated in WEGo policy forums with the founding members Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand.
Jane Hutt went on to talk about the country’s pioneering Wellbeing of Future Generations Act:
“The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, with its seven well-being goals, provides a long term vision of Wales, agreed by the Senedd back in 2015, puts us on a strong footing to guide us in these unchartered water. Thinking about the long term, involving people, joining up policies and delivery of services, collaborating across all sectors, and focusing on prevention is crucial in working more effectively with people, communities and each other to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. In the First Minister’s statement on the Framework to Lead Wales out of the Coronavirus Pandemic the Future Generations Act is part of the principles by which we will examine proposed measures to ease the current restrictions, grounded in both scientific evidence and wider impact.”
If you’re based in Wales and would like to get involved with helping promote and build a wellbeing economy there, we can connect you to the team setting up the brand new WEAll Cymru hub. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org mentioning Wales in the subject line.
The covid-19 pandemic has made the inequalities and absurdities of our current economic systems clearer than ever. Economic policies are oriented towards emergency response and meeting basic needs, and there is no longer an economic status quo available to us.
This provides an opportunity to advance the vision of a wellbeing economy, with even more urgency than before the crisis. It has never been more crucial that we focus our systems on delivering wellbeing for all.
Ten Principles to Build Back Better
The COVID-19 pandemic is having devastating effects on vulnerable communities around the world but we are also seeing glimpses of hope, where societies are working to “build back better” by ensuring basic needs and protecting our natural environment.
In a new WEAll briefing paper published today, we outline a set of ten principles for “building back better” toward a wellbeing economy. “Wellbeing economics for the covid-19 recovery”, by Milena Buchs et al, showcases examples of inspiring actions around the world that are moving us towards a wellbeing economy, along with examples of actions that are moving us away from this vision.
1. New goals: ecologically safe and environmentally just
Prioritise long-term human wellbeing and ecological stability in all decision-making; degrow and divest from economic sectors that do not contribute to ecological and wellbeing goals; invest in those that do; facilitate a just transition for all that creates jobs in and reskills for environmentally friendly and wellbeing focused sectors.
2. Protecting environmental standards
Protect all existing climate policy and emission reduction targets, environmental regulations and other environmental policies in all COVID-19 responses.
3. Green infrastructure and provisioning
Develop new green infrastructure and provisioning, and sustainable social practices as part of the COVID-19 recovery. For instance, transform urban space towards active travel and away from car use; scale up public transport, green energy, environmentally sustainable food production, low carbon housing; attach environmental conditionality to bailouts of high carbon industries.
4. Universal basic services
Guarantee needs satisfaction for everyone, including through health care coverage for the whole population free of charge at point of access; universal free provision or vouchers for basic levels of water, electricity, gas, housing, food, mobility, education.
5. Guaranteed livelihoods
Ensure everyone has the means for decent living, for instance through income and/or job guarantees, redistribution of employment through working-time reduction.
6. Fair distribution
Create more equal societies nationally and globally through a fair distribution of resources and opportunities. E.g. more progressive and environmentally orientated income and wealth taxation; public/common ownership of key resources and infrastructure.
7. Better democracy
Ensure effective, transparent and inclusive democratic processes at all levels; end regulatory capture from corporate interests and corruption.
8. Wellbeing economics organisations
Prioritise in all businesses and organisations social and ecological goals; implement circular economy principles to minimise resource use and waste; ensure economic and organisational democracy.
Ensure cooperation and solidarity at all levels, including in international politics and the global economy; across industrial sectors and government ministries; across scales (global, national, regional, local).
10. Public control of money
Introduce public and democratic control of money creation. Spend newly created money on investments that promote social and environmental goals and avoid post-recovery austerity.
What does building back better look like in practice?
There are already great examples around the world of governments starting to employ these principles.
New Zealand, Iceland and Scotland are already implementing wellbeing economics principles, through the formation of the Wellbeing Economy Government group, and wellbeing budgets and decision-making frameworks. These countries have also achieved better outcomes in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
Of course, other decision makers are opting for business-as-usual, what the WEAll Briefing paper calls a “back to worse” approach. Notably, several governments, including in the US, UK, Australia, Sweden and Denmark have bailed out airlines, without environmental conditions in response to COVID-19.
“Building back better” will require great creativity and coordination. Concerted effort is needed to truly value wellbeing and ecological sustainability simultaneously and for all.
New ideas are a crucial ingredient for such an endeavour. We’ve suggested the ten principles above for responding to COVID-19 – and we recognise that this is a unique moment of change. So, we invite you to engage in this discussion as we work to build back better together. Comment below with further suggestions of principles and examples for what this means where you are.
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The Wellbeing Economy Alliance and the Poverty Alliance have today written to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, urging her to task the recently appointed Advisory Group on Economic Recovery with putting social justice at the heart of their work.
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear First Minister,
Economic Recovery and Covid-19
Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, we have witnessed in action the values that we all share. We have seen the compassion, kindness and solidarity that will be required to make it through this crisis.
But we have also seen that our economy is failing to live up to these values. Our social security system and labour market have failed to protect too many of us: particularly women, disabled people and people from black and minority ethnic communities.
It is clear that as we move through and beyond the current phase of the crisis, we must commit to redesigning our economy and systems to better reflect our shared values of compassion and justice. Instead of returning to the economy we had going into the Covid-19 crisis, we must build back better by creating a wellbeing economy that puts our collective wellbeing first.
We therefore welcome that the Scottish Government’s Covid-19: framework for decision making recognises the need to look at the “social and economic reforms necessary to achieve the best future for Scotland” and commits not to repeat the mistakes of austerity. This commitment is most welcome but must be made real. In the months ahead we urge you to maintain your ambitious climate agenda to ensure the post-Covid-19 economy is a sustainable one, and to ensure it is socially just we urge you to prioritise:
Building a labour market that works for everyone: Too many people, particularly women and younger people, are trapped in poverty by low-paid and insecure work. Fair Work has been central to the Scottish Government’s approach to labour market policy, but more must be done to make it a reality for workers in Scotland.
Designing a more just taxation system: While this crisis is impacting every person across the country, the disproportionate impact on people on low incomes has highlighted the very real consequences of our deeply unequal society. It cannot be right that the wealthiest 1% of households in Scotland own more wealth than the poorest 50% at a time when almost 1 in 4 children are living in poverty. We must inject justice and fairness into our taxation system.
Securing adequate incomes for all: We have seen positive steps taken by the Scottish Government as it has started to deliver social security assistance. However, Covid-19 has highlighted that this support must not only be dignified, but should help deliver an adequate income too. The Scottish Government must use its powers creatively and to their fullest extent to ensure that our social security system can keep any one of us afloat during difficult times.
Even at this moment of crisis we must begin the task of investing in a better future, to ‘build back better’, with every policy decision we make helping us move towards a just society that’s in step with our values.
We must not return to the pre-Covid 19 economy that locked so many people into poverty.
The Advisory Group on Economic Recovery must not, therefore, simply seek to replicate the unsustainable and unjust economy that went before. Instead, it must focus on the steps we can take to create an environmentally sustainable economy that ensures a just distribution of income and wealth. We urge you to task the recently appointed Advisory Group on Economic Recovery with putting social justice at the heart of their work. In doing so the Advisory Group should liaise with the Poverty and Inequality Commission and the Just Transition Commission and collaborate with existing Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partners to show leadership in creating a wellbeing economy.
This time calls on us to reflect on the kind of country we want to live in. We believe in a Scotland in which wealth is justly distributed, our life chances are not determined by how much we earn, where our labour market guarantees Fair Work for every worker, and where everyone has enough money to get by. We hope you share this vision and will take the decisions in the weeks and months ahead to make it a reality.
We would welcome an early discussion with you regarding the role of the Advisory Group, as well as the broader concerns of our members regarding the long-term social and economic reforms we require.
Peter Kelly, The Poverty Alliance
Dr Katherine Trebeck, Wellbeing Economy Alliance
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To coincide with the 10 year anniversary of the publication of the Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, the Carnegie UK Trust is publishing a series of blogs which outline the approach taken to measuring and improving wellbeing by different governments, organisations and initiatives around the world.
By Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Scottish Government
Delivering wellbeing to the people of Scotland is embedded at the centre of Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF) and is key to the Scottish Government’s approach to the economy, which seeks to deliver wellbeing through sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
The goal and objective of all economic policy should be collective wellbeing. This broader approach is at the very heart of our Economic Strategy, published in 2015, which gives equal importance to tackling inequality as economic competitiveness.
A key limitation of traditional measures of the economy, most notably GDP, is that they are limited in what they can tell us about the distribution of income and wealth across society, the components of economic growth and whether that growth is sustainable for future generations. Traditional measures of economic performance do not capture many of the drivers of wellbeing and the things that matter to people – for example health, living standards, quality of environment, security of employment, civic engagement and so on.
Sustainable and inclusive economic growth enables us to look beyond simple headline measures to consider outcomes across a broader range of performance criteria to allow for a more rounded assessment of the quality of our economic system and the distribution of economic opportunities across Scotland’s people and places.
Scotland, by putting wellbeing at the heart of everything we do, is on a journey and we have significant roads still to travel. There are other countries taking a similar approach to tackling some of the big defining challenges that the world currently faces. We know we can learn from international organisations and countries across the world, and share with them our experiences, which is why in 2018 Scotland and partners established the Wellbeing Economy Governments group, or WEGo as it is known.
In WEGo, the Scottish Government is working alongside Iceland and New Zealand – and in the coming year we expect to be joined by one or two new members – to promote sharing of expertise and transferable policy practices among governments who have a shared ambition of deepening their understanding of delivering wellbeing through their economic approach. Our countries have a lot of similarities but also face lots of different challenges. WEGo provides a forum to exchange ideas on our shared priorities and aims to move the idea of wellbeing economy from theory into practice.
A key activity of the group is the Economic Policy Labs, and the first of these were held in Edinburgh in May 2019. One of the areas discussed there was wellbeing budgeting. New Zealand published their first wellbeing budget in that month and their experience, and what we have learnt through our group, has informed activities both here in Scotland and in Iceland. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has set out that a wellbeing budget is being developed in Iceland. Here in Scotland, the budget that I presented to Parliament in February 2020 put wellbeing and fairness at its heart, prioritising actions that have the greatest impact on improving lives across Scotland now, and creating the conditions that are required to ensure wellbeing for future generations.
As Cabinet Secretary for Finance, I am keen to continue, both to collaborate with like-minded countries and to develop our own wellbeing budgeting approach for Scotland. Delivering the outcomes set out in the NPF should be at the centre of how we allocate and spend resources.
But building a wellbeing economy is not the role of government alone. Whilst governments should show leadership – and I believe the Scottish Government is already doing that, see the TED talk given by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in July 2019 – individuals, businesses and organisations across our society have a big role to play. We are committed to working with all those seeking to advance the concept and the reality of a wellbeing economy, both now and in the years ahead.
Finally, as we see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic globally and how it is changing people’s lives, what they value, how they work and interact with each other, a wellbeing economy framing with strong public services seems so obvious. Out of this crisis we will hopefully see a greater emergence of this approach in economies across the world.
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A few days ago, I had the chance to catch up with Katherine – one of the two key protagonists in our film – about her thoughts regarding our current crisis, and what it means for changing our economies. This is a summary of the things she mentioned in our call.
Corona is revealing to the wider community that its miserably paid armies of people in precarious work, hitherto dismissed as ‘low skill’, who really keep our societies going: the couriers, the nurses, the supermarket checkout staff, the care workers, the refuse collectors. They are now the ones who keep the shop open, who keep our streets clean, who deliver books and groceries to our door to help us get through lockdown. They are the ones who ensure our wellbeing these days.
Whereas the highly paid top managers are nowhere to be seen in such a terrain.
This should make us take a renewed interest in rather boring seeming and less glamorous aspects of our economy: schools, hospitals, the food industry (the so-called ‘foundational economy’). We should hold on to a new recognition of the importance of local supply chains.
And also ask ourselves new questions: what is the Care Economy really worth to us? How much do we value the “gift economy” — i.e. all the services that are provided in everyday life without payment (child supervision among neighbours, care for the elderly in the family, help here and there in the neighbourhood), which keep so much of our lives as individuals and as communities together.
And we should note that despite the vital role these things play, so many of them are not calculated anywhere in the GDP of a country.
That is why now is the time to think new thoughts and imagine a better economy post-corona than the one we had going into it. This phase of crisis enables us to ask questions and give answers that were unthinkable only a short while ago.For example, the current UK Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to be thinking — or at least there were hints of this in some of his press conferences – in terms of the rich having to carry some of the burden of the mammoth income support programmes the government is having to bring in. We’ll see where that ends up, but it would have been hard to have imagined just a few weeks ago.
The risk is that this window of possibility will close again very quickly – that a “rollback” will come as people rush to return to how things were — forgetting or ignoring how grim that was for so many and for our planet.
There is a similar diversity in the corporate world — the wheat separating from the chaff: some companies are now putting profits aside and trying to live up to their responsibilities. One example that has caught my eye is the supermarket chain Morrisons which has promised all its suppliers that from now on they will pay all deliveries immediately, to help them with their cash flow. This is significant because supermarkets are notorious for slow payment. Another example is whisky distilleries reconfiguring their operations to produce hand sanitisers — and making it available at cost or for free to front line workers. But there are others going in the opposite direction: Amazon has fired people who didn’t dare to come to work because of Corona, a chain of pubs forcing its staff to work when the government was advising against it.
This is exactly why we must do everything we can to start creating a better world now. The opportunity is to build back better as my former colleagues working in humanitarian situations would say.
A lot of folks have been thinking long and hard for many years — decades even — about how our economy should be.Covid-19 may have just transformed the economic and political landscape so much that these ideas get the hearing they so urgently deserve.
Dr Katherine Trebeck is Advocacy and Influencing lead for WEAll
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Today is the launch of the Amsterdam City Doughnut, which takes the global concept of the Doughnut and turns it into a tool for transformative action in the city of Amsterdam. It’s also the first public presentation of the holistic approach to ‘downscaling the Doughnut’ that an international team of us have been developing for more than a year. We never imagined that we would be launching it in a context of crisis such as this, but we believe that the need for such a transformative tool could hardly be greater right now, and its use in Amsterdam has the chance to inspire many more places – from neighbourhoods and villages to towns and cities to nations and regions – to take such a holistic approach as they begin to reimagine and remake their own futures.
The Doughnut was first published in 2012, proposing a social foundation and ecological ceiling for the whole world. Ever since then people have asked: can we downscale the Doughnut so that we can apply it here – in our town, our country, our region? Over the past eight years there have been many innovative initiatives exploring different approaches to doing just that – including for the Lake Erhai catchment in China, for the nations of South Africa, Wales and the UK, and for a comparison of 150 countries.
Today sees the launch of a new and holistic approach to downscaling the Doughnut, and we are confident that it has huge potential at multiple scales – from neighbourhood to nation – as a tool for transformative action. Amsterdam is a great place for launching this tool because this city has already placed the Doughnut at the heart of its long-term vision and policymaking, and is home to the Amsterdam Donut Coalition, a network of inspiring change-makers who are already putting the Doughnut into practice in their city.
When the Doughnut meets Biomimicry
This new holistic approach to downscaling the Doughnut started out as a playful conceptual collaboration between the biomimicry thinker Janine Benyus and me, as we sought to combine the essence of our contrasting ways of thinking about people and place. It then became a collaborative initiative, led by Doughnut Economics Action Lab (we are so new we don’t have a website yet – but watch this space!) working very closely with fantastic colleagues at Biomimicry 3.8, Circle Economy and C40 Cities, all collaborating as part of the Thriving Cities Initiative.
The result is a holistic approach that embraces social and ecological perspectives, both locally and globally. Applied at the scale of a city, it starts by asking this very 21st century question:
It’s a question that combines local aspiration – to be thriving people in a thriving place – with a global responsibility to live in ways that respect all people and the whole planet. As Janine put it in her characteristically poetic way, ‘when a bird builds a nest in a tree, it takes care not to destroy the surrounding forest in the process’. How can humanity also learn to create settlements big and small that promote the wellbeing of their inhabitants, while respecting the wider living communities in which they are embedded?
To dive into these issues, we explore four interdependent questions, applied in this case to Amsterdam:
These questions turn into the four ‘lenses’ of the City Doughnut, producing a new ‘portrait’ of the city from four inter-connected perspectives. Drawing on the city’s current targets for the local lenses, as well as on the Sustainable Development Goals and the planetary boundaries for the global lenses, we compared desired outcomes for the city against statistical snapshots of its current performance (see the published tool for full details).
To be clear, this city portrait is not a report and assessment of Amsterdam: it is a tool and starting point, ideal for using in workshops to open up new insights and bring about transformative action. The current coronavirus lockdown means that such workshops are on hold at the moment, but changemakers in the city are already finding creative ways to sustain momentum, including through many of the 8 ways that set out below.
Our team at the Thriving Cities Initiative has also worked with city staff to create city portraits for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Portland, Oregon (these are not yet published) and the initial workshops that have been held to date in all three cities have brought together policymakers and change-makers in dynamic and thought-provoking discussions.
And here’s what we think is the real opportunity. The City Portraits that our team has made are what we call public portraits of the cities – made using publicly available targets and data. What if a city were to turn this into its own self portrait, gathering together residents’ lived experiences, their values, hopes and fears, their ideas and initiatives, their own understanding of their deep interconnections with the rest of world? The process of creating such City Self Portraits is, we believe, what will make this tool really take off.
The likelihood of this happening in Amsterdam is high, thanks to the newly launched Amsterdam Donut Coalition: a network of over 30 organisations – including community groups, commons-based organisations, SMEs, businesses, academia and local government – that are already putting Doughnut Economics into practice in their work. Working together they are becoming a catalyst for transformative change, generating inspiration and action within Amsterdam and far beyond.
If you are interested in applying this tool for downscaling the Doughnut to your own place – your neighbourhood, village, town, city, region, nation – please do let us know by filling in this short form. Doughnut Economics Action Lab is already working on creating version 2.0 of the methodology and, once ready, we plan to share it on our forthcoming platform, which will make working collaboratively like this far easier and more effective. Our newly created team at DEAL is currently focused on setting up this platform, so please be a little patient, and by the end of May we will get in touch with our plans for taking this downscaling work forward.
Everyone is likewise welcome to leave responses and suggestions about Amsterdam’s City Doughnut, and the City Doughnut tool, below in the Comments section of this blog. I am currently focused on working with DEAL’s fast-growing team, as well as homeschooling my two children, and looking out for my local community – so please do understand that I may not be able to reply to comments personally, but you are of course welcome to comment and discuss with each other.
As we all start thinking about how we will emerge from this crisis, let us seek to be holistic in how we reimagine and recreate the local-to-global futures of the places we live. I believe this newly downscaled Doughnut tool has a great deal to offer and I look forward to seeing it turned into transformative action, in Amsterdam and far beyond.
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This week a friend and colleague sent this written dialogue to me:
World: “There´s no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, slow climate change and protect the environment.“
Mother Nature: “Here´s a virus. Practice.“
For decades, nations have taken up and practiced a globalised, neoliberal, market-driven economic system with focus on exponential economic growth through natural resource extraction, production with energy use and consumption.
Global natural systems are similarly in exponential decline and the climate is warming exponentially. Despite the 2015 UN Climate Agreement, global emissions were still rising exponentially in 2019. Few people appear to have listened to physics professor Al Bartlett who often stated that „the biggest imperfection of mankind is that it does not understand the consequences of exponential growth.“ Interestingly, the late economist Kenneth Bolding stated: “anyone who thinks that endless growth in a limited world is possible, is either a madman or an economist.“ For the past decade I have asked university student groups and the public whether they can tell me the doubling time if they know the percent rate of increase, and in my memory only one engineering student knew the answer.
Enter the Covid-19 virus. A global pandemic is declared and in only a few weeks the world has ground to a halt, literally. Varied civil protection measures for emergency management have been taken across the world, including closing borders. Testing, isolating, quarantining, treating is the message from WHO. Some nations stepped in with social restrictions early, others later. It appears that the aim of “flattening the curve“ of peak diagnosis per day so that the health care system will not be overwhelmed, appears to be working in some countries.
Meanwhile, in parallel, the economy has slowed down dramatically across the world. World GDP growth is unlikely for 2020 and at the same time total levels of pollution and emissions are likely to decrease.
Like all of us, I am deeply saddened by the world health pandemic and feel for those who have already and will lose their loved ones. Since the beginning of this crisis I have, however, observed several positive outcomes for science, the environment and the economy – which we can all benefit from in the future:
More and more people now understand the terms „exponential growth“ and „doubling times“. National government representatives report daily increase in diagnosed Covid-19 cases and how many days it will take the cases to double. This understanding can in due time be used by address issues relating to both the environment and the economy.
The importance of trust in scientific knowledge has increased. Even populist politicians are now listening to scientists. Dismissal of scientific evidence is thus out, science is in. Even my 8 year old nephew has come up with a Covid-19 virus treatment proposal, which he discussed with my son today who is a medical doctor and research scientist. It is likely that many children will aim to be scientists in the future, filling the current and imminent gaps of lack of scientists and engineers.
Wellbeing of people is the top priority of many government and industry responses. Hi-tech firms from race-car producers to vacuum cleaner manufacturers are being asked to step in to develop and produce in record time ventilators for the overwhelmed health care authorities. Governments are also stepping in to ask companies to produce soaps and other sanitary products and pharmaceutical companies are working with government scientists to develop corona virus vaccines.
Since I am in Iceland I would like to outline the government of Iceland‘s economic rescue package which was introduced last weekend. Before I do that I would like to emphasise that my government is a partner in WEGo (Wellbeing Economies Governments) in partnership with Scotland and New Zealand – all three nations lead by women.
The Icelandic stimulus package is in 10 parts and is a total of 230 billion Icelandic krona, 7.8% of national income. The focus is on Prevention – three actions to prevent job losses and business bankruptcies; Protection – three actions to support individuals and and families due to difficult circumstances; Economic push back – four actions to increase economic activity, goods exchange and investment. These are further outlined below – and where appropriate are linked with the newly established wellbeing indicators (WBI) that are being implemented in Iceland. These are 39 indicators, 17 related to society, 7 related to the environment and 15 related to the economy.
1) Part time pathway – unemployment benefits for those who have reduced employment percentage. This supports economic WBIs on employment rates, unemployment and low income rates
2) Bridging loans to businesses – support for businesses that have operational difficulties to take extra loans as well as reduction in banking taxes. This can be related to economic WBI on debt of business
3) Deadline for business tax payments delayed – delay in tax due date, as well as insurance due date, and delay in due date for prepayment of business income tax. This relates to economic WBI on government debt.
4) Salary during quarantine – employers are compensated for the salaries of people who are in quarantine and cannot work remotely from home. This relates to economic WBIs on buying power and individual debt
5) Increase in child support payments – single extra child support payments to families of every child under 18 because of changed circumstances. This relates to economic WBI on lack of social of economic quality
6) Withdrawal of private pension savings – allowance to withdraw private pension savings for unrestricted use. This relates to economic WBI of purchasing power.
Economic push back:
7) Strengthening tourism – internal injection for tourism (electronic vouchers for every citizen to travel in Iceland), abolition of overnight hotel taxes, and international promotion of Iceland as a tourism destination as soon as the crisis is over. This relates to national income which is one of the economic WBIs.
8) Extension of „everyone works“, refund of value added tax for home improvement and that of NGO facilities. This relates to the WBI of percentage in employment and unemployment.
9) Easier import/export – cancellation of import tax and delay in deadlines for paying customs fees. This relates to economic WBI of purchasing power.
10) Investment efforts – increase jobs in building and maintaining infrastructure, support business innovation, and accelerating planned investment for the future. This relates to economic WBI of percent employed and unemployment.
This quick analysis of the economic stimulus package of the Icelandic government can be directly related to 8 out of 15 economic WBIs. None of the social or environmental WBIs can be directly related to the package. For the environment WBI a focus on accelerating land reclamation and tree planting and increasing nature protection would both create jobs and improve wellbeing for people and nature. A focus on supporting remote education and would affect social WBI pertaining to education level and continuing education.
The Icelandic government has already started to think about the long term even as it deals with this short term crisis, thanks to its wellbeing indicator framework: but there‘s much more work ahead. It is my hope that many of the lessons we learn during this Covid-19 pandemic will bring us closer together and that we can use lessons learned to both protect the environment and build economies with focus on wellbeing for people and nature.
Dr. Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir is Professor of Sustainability Science, Faculty of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland. She is also a WEAll Ambassador and a member of the WEAll Global Council.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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