Policy options for sustainable and equitable coastal economiesa comparative case study

Supervised by:
  1. Juan Manuel Barragán Muñoz Director
  2. Daniel W. O'Neill Co-director

Defence university: Universidad de Cádiz

Fecha de defensa: 13 February 2017

  1. Manuel Acosta Seró Chair
  2. Rafael Sardá Borroy Secretary
  3. Tiago Morais Delgado Domingos Committee member
  1. Historia, Geografía y Filosofía

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 449313 DIALNET


Within this thesis, I investigate how progress towards a sustainable non-growing economy – a steady-state economy – can be envisioned, measured and supported. Envisioning the economy as a fully dependent part of the sustaining and finite Earth-system is commonsensical, and yet it goes against the growth-based goal of the current economic system. It implies that there are absolute limits to growth that cannot be overcome by the remarkable ingenuity and adaptability of Homo sapiens. I propose a conceptual model that recognizes how different ways of perceiving the economic system and its relation to the environment shape the ideologies of decision-makers – ideas about means and ends – that need to be more explicitly taken into account. To measure the proximity of societies to the stability and sustainability conditions of a steady-state economy – an economy with non-growing physical stocks and flows that are maintained within planetary boundaries – I develop a set of ten biophysical indicators. These indicators are based on a unifying conceptual framework between means and ends, and are applied to measure which resource uses need to decline, and by how much, for the economies of Canada, Spain, Nova Scotia and Andalusia to achieve steady-state economies. There is a broad consensus that global environmental pressures need to decline (especially carbon dioxide emissions) but there is much debate, and little evidence, of the impacts on human well-being. I develop a framework to assess the resilience of well-being to declining and increasing trends in consumption levels over time (and associated carbon dioxide emissions) alongside several other social indicators at the national level. The findings suggest that increasing consumption has little effect on well-being over time (undesirable resilience) but decreasing trends have a significant effect (undesirable sensitivity). Measures of social capital and autonomy are found to have large effects on well-being regardless of whether consumption is expanding or contracting. This approach, I argue, can help inform the design of effective and equitable policies for creating system-wide change towards sustainable prosperity without growth.