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COP 26 must prioritise the wellbeing of people and planet above economic growth

COP 26 represents a major opportunity for the UK government to lead the way in tackling the climate and ecological crises. At Global Action Plan, we believe that COP 26 should mark a reprioritisation away from GDP growth and towards the health and wellbeing of people and planet through a commitment to a wellbeing economy. 


Sonja Graham, CEO at Global Action Plan, said: “Global Action Plan challenges the illusion that infinite economic growth - and the consumerism it relies on - are compatible with overcoming the climate crisis. We are calling on the UNFCCC, the UK Government and business leaders to do the same. The old model of GDP-focused, economic growth at all costs is causing a climate and wellbeing crisis – its time to consider a new direction.


There is already huge demand for this approach. Two thirds of the public want the Treasury to put wellbeing above growth. Scotland and Wales are already part of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership.As host of the COP26 climate summit, the UK Government has the opportunity tolead the way by building and championing a Wellbeing Economy model"


What is a wellbeing economy?


Wellbeing Economy is an economic system that prioritises the wellbeing of people and planet above the growth of the economy. It moves away from using GDP growth as a sole measure of a successful economy and instead measures direct indicators of positive impacts on people and planet.  


In a wellbeing economy, policy decisions are made considering the impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of people and on nature. Instead of seeing all growth as “good”, deliberate decisions are made about which aspects of the economy it would be beneficial to grow and which aspects of the economy should be scaled down to prevent harm.  


At Global Action Plan, we are working towards a wellbeing economy by; challenging the drivers of consumerism, helping young people lead change today and visioning the future post-consumerism.  


How is Global Action Plan challenging the drivers of consumerism? 


At Global Action Plan we recognise that many of our choices and behaviours are far from our own. Instead, they are manipulated by brands and advertising solely motivated by profit.  


Our team at Global Action Plan have spoken to young people around the country about the drivers of consumerism. In our Beyond Consumerism video, young people explain in their own words the impact that online advertising is having on them and their generation.  


Unfortunately, children in the UK are bombarded with online advertising. Much of it is precision targeted and highly manipulative. Our End Targeted Advertising to Kids campaign has built a powerful coalition. Together, we are using legal and regulatory routes to protect children from harmful (and often illegal) targeted advertising.    


How is Global Action Plan helping young people lead change today? 


Global Action Plan are helping young people to build resilience to the systems which perpetuate consumerism. And to see and choose more positive alternatives. 


Our #Idontbuyit campaign calls out the forces that drive hyper-consumption and exposes the marketing techniques that are harmful to young people and the planet. We support young people and parents to challenge the pressure to consume and recognise our toxic culture of looks, likes and shopping.  


Through our Goals for Good programme, we help young people early in their careers to examine their life goals against the values they see as most important. Helping them to set paths towards greater health and happiness for them and the wider world. 


How is Global Action Plan visioning the future post-consumerism?  


Young people have grown up with mainstream narratives telling them that high consumption lifestyles are the route to the good life. Alongside this they learn about the dire consequences they can expect in their futures from a world stricken by climate change. It is a bleak outlook and in a recent international study young people reported eco-anxiety to be damaging to their mental health.  


At Global Action Plan, we are working to inspire young people with visions of a wellbeing centric post-consumerist future. One where society takes the right actions to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, resource depletion and species loss.  


Through our Flickers of the Future movement we are working with young creatives to inspire us with more positive ways of living. We are also working with the broadcast sector to change the way that a more sustainable future is depicted through drama and comedy.   


More about COP 26


  • What is COP 26?  COP 26 is the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference hosted by the UK Government. The event is now in its third decade and in that time climate change has moved from a fringe issue to a pivotal global issue.  


  • When and where is COP 26?  Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 COP 26 was postponed. The event will now take place in Glasgow from Monday 1 November to Friday 31 November 2022.  


  • Why is COP 26 important?  At COP 21 in Paris in 2015, every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to below 2 degrees and to aim for below 1.5 degrees. This is known as the Paris Agreement. This was important because experts agree that every fraction of a degree of warming will result in the loss of lives and livelihoods. Since then, a major UN scientific report has said that the window for achieving this goal is closing.  


  • Who is attending COP 26 and what are they working towards?  COP 26 brings together leaders from 196 countries who are being asked to agree actions to limit climate change and its effects. The primary goal is to reach net zero emissions by 2050 with ambitious emission reduction targets by 2030 in order to keep the 1.5 degree warming limit within reach.  


  • Why is Global Action Plan calling for a commitment to a wellbeing economy at COP 26? Global Action Plans overarching vision is a world where everyone is consuming within the worlds limited resources and enjoying happier and healthier lives. The goal of our current economic system is fundamentally at odds with this vision. It requires us to consumer beyond the world’s limits and drives us to consume on a level that negatively impacts on human health and wellbeing. A transition to a wellbeing economy is necessary for our vision to be realised.


Find out more about our work on Post-Consumerism


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