BRUSSELS, Nov 19 (Reuters) - World economies should revise the way they measure economic growth to reflect the rising importance of environmental protection and other social issues, European Union officials and ecology groups said on Monday.
Officials from the executive European Commission joined non-governmental organisations in calling for ways other than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure economic and social health.
“GDP was never intended to be anything but an indicator of economic performance,” EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told a conference.
“It cannot distinguish between activities that have a negative or a positive impact on wellbeing. In fact, war and even natural disasters may register as an increase in GDP.”
He said that taking action to help the environment, such as investing in technology with low emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, might not be good for short-term economic growth, as measured by GDP.
“We need to find measures that will complement GDP and build a more nuanced and accurate understanding of economic and societal progress,” he said.
The EU is considered a leader in the fight against climate change and has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
EU businesses warn, however, that creating too much environmental regulation will harm their competitiveness compared to other regions of the world.
Conservation group WWF said Europe’s economic strength has caused greater damage to the environment. “Just a generation ago much of Europe was an ecological creditor, using fewer resources than it had,” WWF’s European policy office director, Tony Long, said in a statement. “Today, Europe lives beyond its means. If the world’s citizens lived as Europeans, we would need 2.6 planets to provide the necessary resources and absorb the waste.”
Polling company GlobeScan said in a statement three-quarters of people it surveyed in 10 countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany and Russia wanted governments to “look beyond economics and include health, social and environmental statistics in measuring national progress.” (Reporting by Jeff Mason and Marcin Grajewski; Editing by Ron Askew)