Use the future to build the present
Sustainable Economics
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1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy
1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy

Emerging Topic:

4.4Sustainable Economics

Associated Sub-Fields

It is apparent from the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century that externalities need to be better incorporated into the economic decisions of firms, households, and governments. All actors should be more alert to the negative consequences that their decisions have for the wellbeing of others — near or far — as well as for future generations, and for the planet. The market cannot be relied upon to drive positive change towards sustainability, inclusiveness, and resilience. Therefore, more government intervention is needed. Societies need to agree on the negative externalities created (for example by too much automation, by excessive emissions and pollution) quantify them, and shape economic choices through direct subsidies and incentives.

Research into these issues is already uncovering many policy solutions that could lead to resilient, inclusive, sustainable societies. There is the circular economy, for instance, where the full life cycle cost of goods and materials is factored into prices, and where the by-products and waste from one process become the feedstocks for others.1 Sustainable economic policies must also deal with the externalities of climate change, which lead to forced migration, with all kinds of consequences on the societies at the origin and the destination, and agriculture through altered environmental conditions. Our societies also have to solve issues of globalisation, and of automation and employment before they cause significant economic changes that can lead to social unrest. Many of the required economic models and measures have been invented, but are yet to be implemented.

Selection of GESDA Best Reads and further key reports

In 2015, the United Nations set out a list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030, and in 2019 it published a supporting document that lays out policy, incentive and action recommendations.2 Environmental considerations for sustainable development are analysed in a report by Polasky et al.3 Strategies to create circular economies are proposed in a European Commission circular economy action plan4 and the Ellen Macarthur Foundation is championing further action on a global scale.5 In 2018, “Charting Pathways for Inclusive Growth” outlined ways to ensure that people living in poverty were not left behind by developments in frontier technologies.6

Faced by a worsening climate challenge and dramatic changes in the workplace, efforts to make our economies more sustainable are already well underway. The potential impact of the approaches investigated here on both the planet and society were judged to be among the highest of any assessed by the expert panel. However, the considerable attention these ideas have already received from both researchers and policymakers combined with the short timescales over which they are expected to be implemented significantly reduced the need for anticipation. Nonetheless, their potentially transformational effects on society suggests it would be unwise to disregard them.

GESDA Best Reads and Key Resources