The Carbon Column – Can we continue to grow?

In this article I touch on degrowth, a concept born in the 1970s that is starting to gain more traction

Big Zero Report 2023

I ran a workshop last week. In these workshops I spend a day with a business breaking down the fundamentals of sustainability, carbon reporting and plenty more associated concepts.

They are about helping people understand their impact and how they can be better. How they can communicate their ambitions and actions. How they can start measuring and reducing their carbon.

One aspect of the workshop relates to the carbon emissions from different countries. It is no surprise that the more economically developed countries have higher emissions than the least economically developed.

There have been recent discussions about decoupling economic growth from carbon emissions. We have seen this idea become reality the past few years. The increase in renewable capacity has played a critical role in this. But will this decoupling continue?

Most economic growth requires energy, which predominantly comes from the use of fossil fuels. Whilst we remain reliant on fossil fuels, our economic growth will stay linked to carbon emissions.

If growth stays linked to carbon emissions, businesses are concerned with the idea of reducing emissions as they don’t want to stop growing.

Our minds are still associated with growth. Growth; the goal, the focus. Size; the measure of success. But is this the way we should be moving?


There is lots of talk around degrowth, which makes sense. How can we expect to have infinite growth on a finite planet. Degrowth is a concept developed in the 1970s and it is gaining traction.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the measure of value added. We can increase GDP through clean mechanisms, meaning a reduction of GDP could have environmental and social consequences.

Arguments for degrowth focus on distributing work, leisure, natural resources, and wealth. Reducing working hours, guaranteeing a minimum health and economic security, gradual decentralisation, reshoring, and localisation to manage the smaller throughput in a reduced economy.

There are further arguments for redistributed taxes and tighter controls on tax havens to increase investment in solutions to benefit many.

Degrowth is linked to our environmental impact, but it is much bigger than that. It is about true sustainability, about ensuring we balance our economic, social, and environmental positions.

It could have real impact on our social and environmental welfare.

I am certainly no expert on degrowth but someone that is interested in the subject. I have my own views on the topic and would be really interested to hear yours

If you have any views on this or any other net zero topic, please email me or message me on LinkedIn.

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