RISHI Sunak has reaffirmed the UK Government’s commitment to clean growth as a method of dealing with the climate crisis.

However, while the UK Government sticks to the strategy of fighting climate change while simultaneously growing GDP, the Scottish Government has made commitments to explore the reshaping of the country’s economy for the betterment of people and the climate: a so-called wellbeing economy.

Indeed, in a document published earlier this year the Scottish Government stated that its vision for Scotland’s future was “to build a wellbeing economy: that is, an economic system with the collective wellbeing of current and future generations, within environmental limits, at its heart.”

But what exactly is the difference between the UK Government’s and Scottish Government’s approach to solving the climate crisis?

Clean growth 

The UK Government’s Clean Growth Strategy was set out in 2017.

It stated that combatting climate change and driving economic growth were simultaneous and harmonious priorities.

Carbon reduction targets would be met through the creation of new technologies and businesses, which would create new jobs that in turn would lead to economic prosperity.

However Dr Lukas Hardt, policy lead at the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland, told The National that expecting growth to solve climate change ignored the realities of the problems the world faces.

“There are a lot of things that we do need to grow,” he said.

“We need more renewable energy and insulated houses, for example. But there are also quite a lot of things that we need to shrink.

“Fossil fuel use is the obvious one. But there are other areas like meat consumption and the waste produced by linear production models that we see in many industries.

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“That reality raises some quite difficult questions because that will have an impact on a lot of businesses. How do you make sure you are able to reduce and shrink the parts of the economy that we know we need to shrink in fair and equitable way?

“You’re not going to do that if you just focus on GDP growth.”

Wellbeing economy

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance defines a wellbeing economy as an approach that prioritises fundamental human needs rather than endless GDP growth.

Those needs include the right to a dignified life (that is, a life that prioritises happiness and safety) and a restored natural world.

As Dr Hardt stated: “Right now, we prioritise growth and GDP and hope that that will magically translate into good lives for people on the ground, even though we’ve known for decades that it doesn’t work.

“And we do that in the context of the climate emergency, where we know we need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions.

“We aim to show that our economies could actually be doing a lot better if we re-programmed them to focus on the things that actually matter.”

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However, while the Scottish Government has stated that a wellbeing economy is part of the country’s future, there is concern that the pace of change isn’t rapid enough.

Mike Small, from Enough! Scotland – a group which promotes the end of an economy based on growth – said that the UK Government’s continued commitment to growth doesn’t mean Scotland can’t act faster.

“Rishi Sunak is totally committed to the exploitation of North Sea oil despite the fact that all of the IPCC reports say that you simply cannot do that and be consistent with your own targets.

“We’re in this existential human crisis and we have that level of political leadership, just look at the appointment of Therese Coffey as Environment Minister.

“But there’s an opportunity for the Scottish Government as part of the independence movement to say more explicitly that we’re going to be a green country.

“But we need to bite the bullet, which means us rapidly transitioning. And that’s politically difficult.

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“It’s very easy for us to say that we’re in favour of a wellbeing economy. But what that means is degrowth, producing less and consuming less, and people find that very difficult.”

The difference in the rhetoric from the UK and Scottish Government’s shows that their approaches to solving both economic turmoil and climate change are worlds apart.

But it is only political action that will truly dictate the success – or failure – of these differing approaches.