Loni Gardner By Ecologic Institute, Berlin, Ines Omann by Sustainable Europe Research Institute, Vienna, Christine Polzin by Sustainable Europe Research Institute, Vienna, Susanah Stoessel by Ecologic Institute, Berlin and Killian Wentrup by Ecologic Institute, Berlin.

By European Commission, 2011

The aim of the One Planet Economy Network is to help transform Europe to a One Planet Economy by 2050. Given the long timeframe (up to the year 2050), the wide range of factors and the complex interrelationships between these factors, often involving feedback loops, the degree of uncertainty in any attempt to predict future outcomes would be very high.

Clever and Caring

This scenario assumes rapid technological change combined with a high level of preparedness to move away from materialism and the traditional focus on economic growth. This enables a relatively painless shift to a high-tech, but more caring, collaborative and sustainable society. In this world, Europeans recognise that sustainable lifestyles are paramount to the continued function of global ecosystems and the livelihood of future generations. Competition has largely been replaced by cooperation. Planned obsolescence of technology has been replaced by planned durability and reuse. The European health and education systems reflect holistic social values. Social innovation flourishes at the neighbourhood, city and regional levels due to robust participatory governance and ample time availability for personal activities. Nearly 95% of farms in the EU are organic or permaculture-based. The financial system is radically different and has broadened its focus from the short-term and profit-driven models of lending to include social and environmental considerations. Energy infrastructure is largely decentralised and flexible.

Fast Forward

This scenario assumes the economic growth focus of today will continue to be a driving force. The transformation to a One Planet Economy has to be spurred on more aggressively by policies designed to maximise the potential of technological innovation to improve resource efficiency, to constrain overall consumption and to deal with global distributional issues. Without a ―green tech revolution and strong political action, Europe would have been unlikely to stay within the limits of a One Planet Economy, and there would have been a high risk of social and economic instability at global and regional levels. About 70-80% of Europeans live in a highly modern city in high-tech accommodation located in close proximity to work and personal, social and community services. Improvements in energy efficiency have helped drive the decoupling of energy use from economic growth between 2011 and 2050 beyond current trends (in transport, for example, there has been a large-scale reduction on the dependency on fossil fuels). While energy demand in Europe has increased compared to 2011, by 2050 there is almost full decarbonisation of the power sector and a large scale switch to renewable electricity in the heat and transport sectors). Competition has catalysed a transformation of the global economy into one centred on low-impact growth and development, operating under a system of global production zoning.

Breaking Point

This scenario combines slow technological change and an enduring growth focus in people‘s mindset about development. The prices of high-impact goods and services have reached levels that are unaffordable for many people in society. Society is strongly divided by a large social gap between those who can and those who cannot afford an affluent lifestyle. This world is characterised by greater inequality and tension and it is more prone to conflict, which is exacerbated by political and resource related uncertainty shocks and vicious competition for resources. These shocks eventually force this unwilling world to decrease its consumption levels and institute severe policies in order to meet the One Planet Economy goal by 2050. Since only limited gains in resource efficiency are possible through technological solutions, the emphasis has been on changing consumption behaviour. There has been a renewed shift to a more labour-intensive economy with greater food production within the EU for internal consumption, driven by the high prices of energy and other inputs and the fierce competition in world markets for increasingly scarce raw materials. Both imported and domestically produced goods are expensive. Prices for services are also generally high, and nearly every aspect of European life is heavily regulated to control demand and force conservation and efficiency measures.

Slow Motion

This scenario illustrates a more equitable transformation, with the vast majority of people embracing a ―back to basics and ―doing more with less lifestyle. Technological innovation does not play as great a role in enabling the shift to a One Planet Economy as in Scenarios 1 and 2. Instead, Europeans quickly learn to make the most of today‘s available technologies, to collaborate more, and to share limited resources more effectively. In this world, most Europeans have embraced frugality, simplicity and sustainability as core lifestyle choices. Average working hours are roughly half as long as they were in 2011. The average European walks, rides a bike or uses state of the art public transport rather than private road vehicles. The EU‘s economy is reflective of ―greened‖ societal values and has become famous for its Beyond-GDP approach. In business, cooperation and knowledge sharing are more important drivers than competition, resulting in a more limited amount of innovation and growth but a more stable, albeit more insular, economy. Demand for imported goods is low due to large-scale de-materialism and self-sufficiency and due to high trade barriers or tariffs for products and services with high environmental and social harm. Notwithstanding this ―ethical trade policy, Europe actively engages with the global community to promote peace, fair trade, and eliminate trade barriers for technologies that maximise resource and energy use efficiencies.

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