The global economy in the 21st century faces two key interrelated challenges. The first is poverty and increasing inequality. The second is ecological self-destruction and accelerating climate change.
A strategy for sustainable global economic growth is the means to end poverty, ameliorate inequality while making economic growth mean ecological improvement. This is a market based strategy catalyzed by government leadership in establishing new market rules helping guide consumption, production and investment decisions.
A sustainable global growth strategy is predicated on stimulating enormous productive global investment flows in energy, transportation, and industry to build the productive infrastructure of a sustainable ecological future.
In 2008, many trillions of dollars were swiftly expended to save the global financial system and bail out the bankers. In 2014, a sustainable and prosperous future for all our families. as opposed to global economic and ecological collapse, is the question on the table.
And unlike 2008, treasury doesn’t need to madly cut checks. What we need is government leadership for new market rules where economic growth means ecological improvement. The goal is an increase in sustainable jobs and wages for workers, in profits and earning per share for business and investors. New market rules and ecological consumption taxation can replace income taxation and serve to unleash national and global investment in a sustainable future. This is good for the United States; this is good for China; good for both the industrialized and the developing world.
It’s not rocket science to require replacement of polluting coal plants, for example, with non-polluting energy. It does not require carbon taxes. It can be done, as the Obama administration is attempting, though limits on emissions. Or it can done by requiring an increasing percentage of non-polluting energy to be sold by energy suppliers, so-called Renewable Portfolio standards. A renewable turn will lead to enormous investment and sustainable job creation in an energy system that has zero fuel costs.
By allowing polluting industry to pollute for free they gain competitive advantage and put clean competitors out of business, This is Adam Smith 101. If market economies are to survive and to prosper, it must be through the practice of an industrial ecology with the goal of zero pollution and zero waste. All outputs of production become inputs for other processes.
Automobile companies like Subaru already proclaim that their cars come from landfill free plants, and GM is committed to land-fill free factories. Walmart’s three sustainability goals are to be 100% supplied by renewable energy, to create zero waste, and “to sell products that sustain people and the environment.”
New market rules will make Walmart’s and GM’s job much easier. By phasing out pollution for free, sustainable goods will cost less, gain market share, and become more profitable. Balance sheets in the 21st century and quarterly earnings reports can and must lead the way toward an ecological future.
This path must be global. Global trade rules allow requiring imports to meet national ecological standards, or pay duties to end pollution subsidies. We must transfer technology to developing nations and invest to help them build their own low polluting ecological growth futures and create a virtuous global growth circle based on productive prosperity for all.
The nay-sayers and defenders of business and pollution as usual are overwhelmingly in thrall to those who want to continue to profit from pollution.
Implementing an ecological global growth strategy should be job one for government in partnership with workers and business. We can build through our economic and technological prowess a prosperous, fair and sustainable global future. That can and must be the future for capital in the 21st century.
Real Cost of 2008 bailouts
GM Quest for Zero Landfill
“Currently, more than half of our manufacturing facilities are landfill-free, bringing our total count to 85. On average, 97% of the waste generated from everyday manufacturing operations at these plants is recycled or reused, and 3% is converted to energy.”