Mitigation through a prosperous economy

In a disputation in the German business weekly Wirtschaftswoche the growth critic Niko Paech preaches a radical consumption cutback as the only salvation for humanity. MCC director Edenhofer counters: growth liberates from poverty – and saves the environment.


“We can allow growth and still cut back on emissions so that the planet’s warming is limited to the two degree we think is tolerable at most. On the other hand it would be very expensive to save the world from climate change through degrowth,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, Director at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and Chief Economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Carbon pricing, through certificates or taxes alike, set an incentive for investments in technologies that produce less greenhouse gases. “It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet by carbon pricing.”

Niko Paech, however, visiting scholar at the chair of production and environment („PUM“) at the University of Oldenburg, thought “consumption democracies” to be far away from getting a majority on such a form of price control. “I am surprised about the check environment activists are making out for the renewables. Once mitigation destroys nature we need to pull the plug.”

Edenhofer clearly objects. In order to reach the two degree target the world economy would have to be fully decarbonized by the middle of the century. And this could not be set in motion by degrowth. “Then we would have to throw in the towel in the fight against poverty,” he suspects.

Paech underlines technological progress will only preserve the environment, if the economy doesn’t grow. He says: “If technology fails, only reduction can help.” Edenhofer answers back that through certain technologies emissions can even be captured to some extent. “You underestimate human creative potential.” He is convinced: “A simple delegation of mitigation towards the consumers is not going to work.”


You can access the full article (German only) here.