Decoupling or ‘recoupling’ carbon to growth?
Had a great meeting of the Green Thinkers last night, despite the fact I had managed not to read the book I had suggested, A World of 3 Zeroes by Muhammed Yunus. Yunus’s proposal is that we should be aiming for zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero carbon, not a bad definition of global priorities. However those who had read the book thought that the zero carbon element was much weaker than the others, and furthermore, hitting the two social goals could drive carbon up.
I believe that mindset is the key to Sustainability, whether that’s the mindset of the general public, politicians, or those of us in the Sustainability field. To this end, the free-wheeling conversation at Green Thinkers is important to me as it crystallises some of my thinking, lubricated by a couple of bottles of Golden Plover IPA…
So the phrase that resonated during this conversation was ‘decoupling carbon from growth’. I suddenly realised that this is a very weak way of putting what happens in a truly Sustainable economy. Instead of just decoupling the carbon wagon from the economic locomotive so the two are independent, we need to be turning that locomotive around, and ‘recoupling’ it to the other side of the wagon, pulling it in the opposite direction, so growth drives carbon down.
I made the example of my small investments in renewable energy. I get a healthy interest return for every low carbon unit of energy produced. I get richer by the process of decarbonisation. That model should the ultimate goal we are trying to achieve.