Towards a green economy

Published on October 31, 2019   36 min

A selection of talks on Finance, Accounting & Economics

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So my name's Cameron Hepburn, I'm a Professor of Environmental Economics at Oxford University. I wanted to talk to you about the progress "Towards a Green Economy".
I've got three parts for this talk. First, I introduce the idea of the 'Anthropocene', as a geological epoch, and some of the evidence that we're in that era now. Which is to say, an era where human influence on the planet is all dominating. Secondly, partly as a response to the fact that we know where having such a big impact on the natural environment, move to the question of what a green economy would look like, what this concept of natural capital is, and how these ideas within environmental economics might help us to ensure that humanity survives more than another 100 years or two. Then lastly, you can zoom in onto climate change as one of these problems of the Anthropocene to look at how we're going, what progress we're making, and where we've still got some fairly major problems there. So that's the plan for the next 45 minutes or so.
So on the next slide, you can see GDP per capita, which is a measure of gross output per person for a number of countries: Britain, Japan, Italy, China, and India, from over the last 1,000 years. As you can see, for a very long time, because human civilization goes back well beyond 2,000 years. But it's only really since the dawn of the industrial revolution around 1800 that you saw gross output per person rising. But we're now at the point where you can say that we've solved the economic problem, in Keynes's language, John Maynard Keynes, in that we now have enough outputs to provide for satisfactory lives, material living standards for everybody on the planet. Because we don't do that because we've got a major inequality. But in terms of delivering the technologies for prosperity, we've done that. We've done that primarily through our brains, and we've used our ideas to refashion material into forms that provide us with shelter, and food, and other systems for our material prosperity. So that's very good news. By the way, I should say that GDP per capita is not really a great measure of well-being, or welfare, and it's certainly not a measure of wealth which is a stock. If you're interested in that, last year, 2017, we published a book on National Wealth with Oxford University Press. We're trying to get countries to use wealth as an indicator rather than gross domestic product.