Once confined to the margins, the ecological critique of economic growth has gained widespread attention. At a United Nations climate-change summit in September, the teen-age Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg declared, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” The degrowth movement has its own academic journals and conferences. Some of its adherents favor dismantling the entirety of global capitalism, not just the fossil-fuel industry. Others envisage “post-growth capitalism,” in which production for profit would continue, but the economy would be reorganized along very different lines. In the influential book “Prosperity Without Growth: Foundations for the Economy of Tomorrow,” Tim Jackson, a professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey, in England, calls on Western countries to shift their economies from mass-market production to local services—such as nursing, teaching, and handicrafts—that could be less resource-intensive. Jackson doesn’t underestimate the scale of the changes, in social values as well as in production patterns, that such a transformation would entail, but he sounds an optimistic note: “People can flourish without endlessly accumulating more stuff. Another world is possible.”


That, ultimately, for degrowth to work, 86% of people living in the richer world would need to see their standard of living decline for a decade or more. This would be politically unacceptable or as Milanovic says “now, the relevance of moral preaching of abstinence is close to zero.” It is a thought-provoking essay. (See also: An exemplary overview of the degrowth movement, read John Cassidy in The New Yorker.)


BRUSSELS – Multilateralism has been on the defensive in recent years. In a global setting that is more multipolar than multilateral, competition between states seems to prevail over cooperation nowadays. However, the recent global agreement to reform international corporate taxation is welcome proof that multilateralism is not dead.

Charging a price for pollution

The main vehicle for putting a price on pollution is the Emissions Trading System (ETS), which sets prices for emissions permits needed by over 11,000 power plants and industrial installations, as well as airlines, covering around 40 percent of the bloc’s greenhouse gases. After years of very low prices, a mix of reforms and the pressure of tougher climate legislation has driven prices to more than €50 per ton of emitted carbon.

Cities are key to the green future

Cities are the key to achieving net-zero emissions targets by 2050, argues the IEA (and me!). According to the International Energy Agency, cities account for more than 50% of the globe’s population, 80% of its economic output, two-thirds of global energy consumption and more than 70% of annual global carbon emissions. For cities to lead, they will need to emphasise smart city digitalisation efforts along with ambitious local leadership so they can scale investment in urban net-zero projects.

USA myths and public health

From its founding, the United States has cultivated a national mythos around the capacity of individuals to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, ostensibly by their own merits. This particular strain of individualism, which valorizes independence and prizes personal freedom, transcends administrations. It has also repeatedly hamstrung America’s pandemic response. It explains why the U.S. focused so intensely on preserving its hospital capacity instead of on measures that would have saved people from even needing a hospital. It explains why so many Americans refused to act for the collective good, whether by masking up or isolating themselves. And it explains why the CDC, despite being the nation’s top public-health agency, issued guidelines that focused on the freedoms that vaccinated people might enjoy. The move signaled to people with the newfound privilege of immunity that they were liberated from the pandemic’s collective problem. It also hinted to those who were still vulnerable that their challenges are now theirs alone and, worse still, that their lingering risk was somehow their fault. (“If you’re not vaccinated, that, again, is taking your responsibility for your own health into your own hands,” Walensky said.)

Peak populism

Extremist leaders remain in power in some of the world’s most populous democracies. But even some of those strongmen are now starting to face a real reversal of fortune.

Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain known for his extremist rhetoric and open nostalgia for Brazil’s departed military dictatorship, unexpectedly assumed the country’s presidency in 2019. But he is now in deep political trouble. Lacking loyal allies in the country’s Congress, Bolsonaro has so far proved unable to concentrate power and, thanks to his disastrous mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, his popularity has plummeted. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former president better known simply as Lula, is likely to beat Bolsonaro in an upcoming election.


Recent developments in Europe and Latin America suggest that some of the populists and antidemocratic leaders who have dominated the political landscape for the past decade might finally be encountering serious trouble. If the picture looked almost unremittingly bleak a few years ago, now distinct patches of hope are on the horizon.

The carbon taxes are coming

However, carbon removal alone cannot replace the need to move away from fossil fuels.”

The Swiss Re exec further suggested that a global carbon tax could be an important tool to incentivise low-carbon behaviour and decision-making.

At Swiss Re recently announced a triple-digit real carbon levy on both direct and indirect operational emissions such as business travel, and Ojeisekhoba believes this same logic could be applied on a wider scale by the insurance industry, using such a carbon levy to aggressively finance green technologies.