17 July, 2007
Europe’s economic growth is producing more carbon emissions but this is not making us happier, according to a new European Happy Planet Index presented by UK think tank New Economics Foundation (nef) yesterday.
“What is the point if we burn vast quantities of fossil fuels to make, buy and consume ever more stuff without noticeably benefiting our wellbeing?”, said Nef’s policy director, Andrew Simms.
The Scandinavian countries rank highest on the index with some of the former East bloc countries (Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia) and (surprisingly) Luxembourg (which has Europe’s highest GDP per capita, if I am not mistaken) at the bottom of the league.
While I appreciate nef’s efforts on finding new ways of measuring happiness and well-being and agree with their conclusions, I have my own doubts on their instrument. When they applied the Happy Planet Index at global level last year, the list was topped by Vanuatu, Colombia and Costa Rica. I have a difficult time believing these three would really be the world’s happiest. For a good critique of nef’s Happy Planet Index, read Daniel Ben-Ami’s “Who’s happiest: Denmark or Vanuatu?”
Having said that, the nef study underllines (once again) the need for politicians to redefine our definition of progress and move it beyond the flawed GDP instrument. Luckily, there are signs that the European Commission is starting to wake up to this issue. On 19-20 November, the European Parliament will host an interesting conference “Beyond GDP” which is organised in cooperation with the OECD, the Club of Rome, WWF and the European Commission.
- NEF press release: UK 21st in European league of carbon efficiency and well-being
- BBC News: Emissions don’t make Europe happy
- The Independent: A carbon-lite life is a happier life, says economic think-tank