Ending poverty need put no additional stress on the planet’s natural resources, according to a new report published today by international agency Oxfam.
According to the paper’s author Kate Raworth, human deprivation and environmental degradation must be tackled together as humanity’s two major operating boundaries – “social boundaries” like hunger, inequality and ill-health and the “planetary or environmental boundaries” like climate change and biodiversity loss – are inextricably linked.
“By seeing the whole we can understand that solving food, energy and income poverty could be achieved with almost no impact on our planetary boundaries. Any vision of sustainable development must recognise that eradicating poverty and social injustice is inextricably linked to ecological stability and renewal,” said Raworth.
Oxfam has published the discussion paper “A Safe and Just Space for Humanity – Can We Live Within The Doughnut?” as a contribution to the debate in the run-up to the UN conference on sustainable development (Rio+20) in June. The paper suggests a new way of approaching economic development within environmental and social limits. Oxfam discussion papers are intended to encourage public debate but do not represent Oxfam policy.
The Stockholm Resilience Centre originally published the concept of nine planetary boundaries, beyond which lies unacceptable environmental degradation. To these, Raworth has added the concept of social boundaries, below which lies unacceptable human deprivation.
Together, the two sets of boundaries create an area – shaped like a doughnut – that defines an environmentally safe and socially just space for humanity to thrive in. This simple visual framework brings together the social, environmental and economic priorities that underpin inclusive and sustainable development.
- Food: Providing the additional calories needed by the 13 percent of the world’s population facing hunger would require just one percent of the current global food supply.
- Energy: Bringing electricity to the 19 percent of people who currently lack it could be achieved with a less than one percent increase in global CO2 emissions.
- Income: Ending income poverty for the 21 percent of people who live on less than $1.25 a day would require just 0.2 percent of global income.