Ending poverty need not be at the expense of the environment
Ending poverty need put no additional stress on the planet’s natural resources, according to a new report published today by international agency Oxfam.
According to the paper’s author Kate Raworth, human deprivation and environmental degradation must be tackled together as humanity’s two major operating boundaries – “social boundaries” like hunger, inequality and ill-health and the “planetary or environmental boundaries” like climate change and biodiversity loss - are inextricably linked.
“By seeing the whole we can understand that solving food, energy and income poverty could be achieved with almost no impact on our planetary boundaries. Any vision of sustainable development must recognize that eradicating poverty and social injustice is inextricably linked to ecological stability and renewal,” said Raworth.
Oxfam has published the discussion paper “A Safe and Just Space for Humanity – Can We Live Within The Doughnut?” as a contribution to the debate in the run-up to the UN conference on sustainable development (Rio+20) in June. The paper suggests a new way of approaching economic development within environmental and social limits. Oxfam discussion papers are intended to encourage public debate but do not represent Oxfam policy.
The Stockholm Resilience Center originally published the concept of nine planetary boundaries, beyond which lies unacceptable environmental degradation. To these, Raworth has added the concept of social boundaries, below which lies unacceptable human deprivation.
Together, the two sets of boundaries create an area - shaped like a doughnut - that defines an environmentally safe and socially just space for humanity to thrive in. This simple visual framework brings together the social, environmental and economic priorities that underpin inclusive and sustainable development.
Data shows that we are far from living “within the doughnut”. Raworth estimates that humanity is falling far below the social foundation on at least eight of the 11 social boundaries. Nearly 900 million people face hunger, 1.4 billion live on less than $1.25 per day, and 2.7 billion have no access to clean cooking facilities.
At the same time, the environmental ceiling has already been crossed for at least three of the nine planetary boundaries, on climate change, biodiversity loss and nitrogen use.
The paper suggests that economic development must aim to bring humanity into the safe and just space, ending deprivation and keeping within safe use of the earth’s limited resources. Traditional growth policies have largely failed to deliver on both accounts: far too few benefits of GDP growth have gone to people living in poverty, and far too much of GDP’s rise has been at the cost of degrading natural resources.
“For too long environmental, social and economic concerns have been handled as separate issues but the rising global challenges of climate change, financial crises, food price volatility and commodity price increases show that these issues are unavoidably interconnected and must be tackled together,” said Raworth.
The paper shows that ending poverty need not be a source of stress on planetary boundaries.
- Food: Providing the additional calories needed by the 13 percent of the world’s population facing hunger would require just one percent of the current global food supply.
- Energy: Bringing electricity to the 19 percent of people who currently lack it could be achieved with a less than one percent increase in global CO2 emissions.
- Income: Ending income poverty for the 21 percent of people who live on less than $1.25 a day would require just 0.2 percent of global income.
The paper says that the real source of stress on these planetary boundaries is the excessive resource use by roughly the richest 10 percent of people in the world, backed up by the aspirations of a rapidly growing global middle class seeking to emulate those unsustainable lifestyles.
The discussion paper has been produced as part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign which is committed to creating a better future, ensuring food security and prosperity for all in a resource-constrained world.
Join the discussion: Can we live inside the doughnut? Why the world needs planetary and social boundaries
Notes to Editors
- Download the report: A safe and just space for humanity – can we live within the doughnut? (pdf, 1MB)
- Read the blog: Can we live inside the doughnut? Why the world needs planetary and social boundaries
- The nine planetary boundaries critical for keeping the earth in a stable state according to Rockström et al of the Stockholm Resilience Center are climate change, biodiversity loss, land use change, freshwater use, nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, atmospheric aerosol depletion and ozone depletion. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v461/n7263/full/461472a.html
- This Oxfam discussion paper bases its 11 social foundations on governments’ social priorities for Rio+20: food security, income, water and sanitation, health care, education, energy, gender equality, social equity, voice, jobs and resilience.
Tricia O'Rourke, Media Officer - GROW Campaign
Tel: +44 1865 339157 (Mon, Tues & Thurs)
Mob: +44 7876 397915 (Wed & Fri)
Apple under scrutiny for #taxdodging, shows “unbelievable chutzpah.” http://t.co/XIL06OCU1A @nytimes #taxhavens5 hours 24 min ago
#Lille France-UK #Transparency Conference: Follow our @benphillips76 @LucLampriere @HannahStoddart. See also @pcanfin #landgrabs #taxdodging7 hours 17 min ago
Pls consider donating to our #SyriaCrisis Appeal. $10 covers basic needs items for 1 person for a month http://t.co/HtJ1uzYBpa7 hours 28 min ago
UN has now registered +1.3m #refugees. One of them, Leka'a, has kindly shared her v personal story w us http://t.co/TQHewOBFIc #SyriaCrisis8 hours 1 min ago
#Hunger will be the face of the future without govt & aid policy reform http://t.co/ryFcadlsXF MT @TR_Foundation via @katymigiro9 hours 36 min ago
RT @OxfamEAfrica: The great @Oxfam team at the #AUSummit this week - @mynassah @ShuksG @MuleyaM @JMwanjisi @NicholasNgigi @assodesire @Ja…10 hours 1 min ago
#Cyclone Mahasen: we're working with #Bangladesh govt & other agencies to assess needs http://t.co/I1orTbX0HJ #humanitarian10 hours 56 min ago
RT @oxfamgbpress: The most fearless women on earth http://t.co/72kW0cBMdW via @Fabulousmag includes an Afghan woman who works with @Oxfam11 hours 14 min ago
#India communities most affected by #climate change learning to adapt using #renewable energy http://t.co/QuNn1H8MDe #resilience11 hours 26 min ago
Disasters happen but the #inequality of risk is no accident. Our new report on #resilience http://t.co/XDMrZ3eK7r #climate12 hours 25 min ago
No accident millions at risk 2 disasters: Fundamental shift needed in power/politics http://t.co/NgcQrVEFfy #climate #inequality #resilience12 hours 50 min ago
More on the global land rush: @Global_Witness report on logging in #Cambodia http://t.co/2G6Qm7vHgx @TheEconomist #landgrabs15 hours 12 min ago
How to avoid 'sustainability fatigue': short hit-list for business leaders via @GuardianSustBiz http://t.co/GavVllQYkw #susdev16 hours 12 min ago
RT @revenuewatch: New @Oxfam post explains what works in the fight against #corruption! http://t.co/1nF9FWykjL via @fp2p1 day 3 hours ago
RT @MeatFreeMonday: The Canadian city of Vancouver will be supporting Meat Free Monday on 10 June! http://t.co/zQ2tfrDX8y1 day 5 hours ago