True 'growth' for Europe’s nature and people

The Italian presidency puts forward smart, sustainable and inclusive growth as one of its priorities, leading the EU in the coming months. But what does this mean, exactly, for the European citizen, Luigi Epomiceno wonders.

Luigi Epomiceno is the director of WWF Italy.

Reforms, innovation and smart, sustainable and inclusive growth are the keywords of the programme the Italian Presidency has prepared for its six months at the head of the Council of the EU. What else does Europe need in a period of economic hardship and political unpopularity if not ambitious reforms? WWF could not agree more. But as we know, the devil often hides in the detail. And the not irrelevant detail is the meaning of “growth”.

What kind of economic growth are we aiming at? The kind of “growth at all costs” that resulted in inefficient, resource-intensive economies that benefit privileged minorities? Or, having learned the hard lessons of the recent past, are we aiming at a new model of growth focused on quality rather than quantity, and on producing, eating, consuming better rather than simply more? “Create a new Europe for the Planet”, is the programme that the WWF launched for its European elections’ campaign that 132 elected newly elected Members of the European Parliament have signed. It is the policy programme that we are now asking the Italian government to support and deliver upon.

In the WWF’s view, it is only if key economic sectors become more resource-efficient, and reduce environmental risk and social inequalities, will we be able to build a better, more prosperous and sustainable future. For that to happen, a new economic thinking that looks beyond GDP as an indicator, and includes the value of natural capital, will be essential. Renewed political leadership is also required. Italy now has an important opportunity to take the lead and initiate such a fresh start using the forthcoming changes at the highest echelons of the European institutions as a potential lever for change.

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