Three transformative actions from Stockholm+50

Our planet, societies and economies are under growing pressure. Human activities overshoot several planetary boundaries, whilst governments struggle to meet all societal needs. Civil society organisations including the EEB formulated three transformative actions for wellbeing-focused economies that respect people and nature.

It’s been fifty years since governments gathered in 1972 to discuss the environment at the Stockholm Conference, and since the famous Limits to Growth report was published. But the Stockholm+50 meeting— held by the United Nations from 2-3 June, 2022 —wasn’t exactly like a golden wedding celebration. Aside from the fact that humanity now faces even bigger environmental challenges, we also have less time today to face up to them.

Though there was no negotiation, the meeting offered opportunities to nudge pioneering governments towards action. We also created an opportunity by organising a high-level political side event called Wellbeing Economies: A new economic approach for human and planetary health. The EU’s environment commissioner, government representatives from Finland, Wales and Bhutan, and civil society representatives from all over the world took part in our debate. The side event was rooted in messages central to a new policy briefing by the EEB, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) called “This is the moment to go beyond GDP”, which is also tied to our doughnut economy campaign.

Our briefing’s message was felt throughout the Stockholm+50 meeting. During our side event, the briefing was handed over directly to environment ministers from Belgium, Argentina, Germany and other countries. Later that day, after the UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared a message in alignment with our briefing, the UN organisers featured our message on top of their wrap-up newsletter. Three days after the meeting, Guterres showed strong support for our call to get better metrics for progress. Finland also brought our narrative on doughnut economics and a wellbeing economy right to the leadership dialogue. Our demands for better metrics were also reflected in the official recommendations from the Leadership Dialogues.

The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bhutan at the EU Tshering Gyaltshen Penjor, the Government of Finland’s State Secretary at Ministry for the Environment Terhi Lehtonen, the EEB’s Director of Global Policies and Sustainability Patrizia Heidegger, the Future Generations Commissioner of Wales Sophie Howe, and the European Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevičius us during one of the panel discussions.

Additionally, we also brought cutting-edge science to decision-makers by introducing LOCOMOTION, our H2020 research project, at UNEP’s side-event on Data-Driven Environmental Solutions. 

The co-organising partners of the high-level side-event on wellbeing economies —the EEB, WEAll, WWF, The Club of Rome, and SSNC— formulated three transformative actions:

  1. Better metrics for economic progress: To get beyond the “development as catching-up paradigm” and adopt a better progress indicator than GDP, action at UN level is possible, needed and timely. In the coming year or two and in the context of the UN’s Beyond GDP process, wellbeing economy governments, the EU, and regional and international organisations should push for an Intergovernmental Panel on Wellbeing, Inclusion, Sustainability and the Economy (IP-WISE).
  2. A high ambition coalition for wellbeing economies: The wellbeing economy government partnership of Scotland, Iceland, New Zealand, Finland, Wales and Canada should grow with countries like Bhutan and Costa Rica. In our side event, Bhutan explained how they were able to transition to a middle-income-country without exploiting their natural resources or disregarding their cultural heritage. There’s added value in learning from Bhutan about how to achieve that outcome in government coalitions that extend beyond the high income countries.
  3. Redefining prosperity and enshrining wellbeing in national legislation: The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is a successful and innovative piece of legislation that leads to transformative policy and decision-making processes. It requires public bodies to consider the long-term impacts of their decisions and meaningfully include communities in their planning processes. This means long-term goals are not just policy aspirations but are enshrined in law, with institutions required to meet them.

More details on the side event and these transformative actions are available here.

Video recording of the event is available here. You can also see some of the photos from the event here.