Here’s the second blog in our series of High Peak General Election candidate responses to our questions. The full, unedited responses for this question are available in this document: Candidates Responses-Q2.
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Can the economy keep growing for ever? If so, where will resources come from; if not, what is the alternative?
Charlotte Farrell (Green)
Charlotte says that clearly the economy cannot keep growing forever in the way that the other parties seem to envisage, expecting infinite growth from a finite world. She says that we are already reaching the point where the pursuit of economic growth is costing more in terms of total damage to health, society and environment than the value returned by it.
Instead the Greens would begin to shift the economy from the simple pursuit of profit to the fulfilling of needs. External costs would be factored in to economic decision making, so that economic activity accounts for its total impact. For economic activity to be sustainable it has to address human and environmental impacts and needs and begin to work for the general good of all.
Caitlin Bisknell (Labour)
Caitlin says that it’s not so much about whether the economy can keep growing, but about how it evolves to incorporate new technologies. Successful economies are those that adapt to new technologies quickest, build the new industrial base and plan the transition to avoid huge economic shocks.
The next big transition in economic terms is the move from high-carbon power to low-carbon. Therefore, we need to develop plans on grid enhancements, carbon capture and storage pipelines, distributed generation technologies, integrated recycling plants, energy efficiency improvements and electric vehicle charging networks that are the platforms for green growth of the economy as a whole.
Labour believes a million more high skilled, green jobs can be created by 2025, with British manufacturing companies producing the plant, equipment and technology.
Stephen Worrall (Liberal Democrats)
Can the economy keep growing forever? Stephen says, “No I don’t think it can but I’m not an economist!” However, he contends that we are a long way off any ‘tipping point’ that may occur.
Stephen links economic growth to a growing population. If our population became static or started to decrease an economy with no growth would be “more than OK”. In mature societies this appears to begin naturally as people have fewer children but with the world at such varying states of development the point at which global population stops growing is a “long way off”. One way to slow population growth would be to do far more to empower women to take ownership of their own birth control.
Stephen also advocates much better use and recycling of resources. We are still a throwaway society and nowhere near enough is being done at the moment to encourage recycling.
There is little mention of the benefits or otherwise of unconstrained economic growth in the UKIP policy document. There are however, sections on ‘increasing prosperity’, ‘repairing the economy’ and ‘reducing debts we leave to our grandchildren’. The focus of the last section is leaving the EU to save £8bn pa in contributions, cutting the foreign aid budget by £9bn pa, scrapping HS2 and abolishing the government departments of Energy & Climate Change, and of Culture, Media & Sport.
Andrew Bingham (Conservative)
Andrew says that the Conservatives are committed to sustainable development in the form of stimulating economic growth and tackling the deficit, maximising wellbeing and protecting our environment, without negatively impacting on the ability of future generations to do the same. He says that these are difficult times and tough decisions need to be made.
Sustainable development recognises that the three pillars of economy, society and the environment are interconnected. The last Government initiated a series of growth reviews to put the UK on a path to strong, sustainable and balanced growth and our long term economic growth relies on protecting and enhancing the environmental resources that underpin it, and paying due regard to social needs. As part of our commitment to enhance wellbeing, we will start measuring our progress as a country, not just by how our economy is growing, but by how our lives are improving; not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life.