Beyond Growth in the European Parliament

“The hope reaching beyond economic growth is not about saving the planet. It is about creating a common home for everyone.” These words by Philippe Lambert, MEP and co-president of the Group of the Greens / EFA set the tone for the opening day of the conference Beyond Growth that started on Monday, 15 May in the European Parliament in Brussels. 

The relevance of the beyond growth thinking was underlined by the opening speeches of the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The key concern underlined by both Presidents was: how can be economic growth sustainable?

Although both acknowledged that economic growth based on fossil fuels is obsolete, they were defending a model of “resilient and sustainable growth that is producing a strong economy.” A model based on a “social market that cares not only about the economy, but at the same time is centered on human development, workers rights, education, and good governance.”

Both speeches were welcomed by the until the last seat filled the plenary hall in the Parliament. At the same time, however, both speeches were responded to by loud voices of disagreement. Especially, when Presidents were defending the idea of compatibility of economic growth with the planetary boundaries.   

The idea of permanent economic growth was strongly challenged by Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Co-President of The Club of Rome. Her statement was clear: „Growth of the economy is neither compatible with planetary boundaries, nor is compatible with social cohesion.“ Although much hope in the current policy setting is given to the reconciliation of economic growth with climate resilience and an environmentally friendly approach through the progress of technology, she did not support that approach. „Instead of technology change, we need the change of our minds,“ she underlined.

The conference is attended by over 2000 participants present on the premises of the European Parliament and online and raises particular attention among the youth. Many of them traveled to the conference from all over the continent and beyond. The conference offers the stage for inputs and much-expected discussion of experts of different backgrounds, policy decision-makers, and civil society.

„In the question that is standing at the background of this discussion: whether the vision of a sustainable future needs to be supported by the change of the policies or at the same time by the change of values, the churches, and faith-based organizations have much to contribute,” commented Peter Pavlovic, the Study Secretary of CEC the discussion in the first day of the conference.    

The need to work on a new narrative underpinning the aim of carbon neutrality and care for a common home is getting ever-growing support. The question of the compatibility of economic growth with a vision of a sustainable future is one of the key questions of the future.