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The quest for green welfare state in developing countries

Abstract : In 2015, the world nations agreed to tackle the “two greatest challenges of our century” to paraphrase Nick Stern (2009) – namely growing inequality and climate change. They signed up the Agenda 2030 and endorsed its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), thereby committing to shift development patterns towards sustainable paths. The same year, the Paris Agreement on climate change was celebrated as a breakthrough in environmental governance, marking a watershed between an old world suffocating under fossil-fuel pollution, and a green new world matching the economic aspiration of a growing world middle class within a ‘safe operating space for humanity’ (Steffen et al., 2015). The transition from one world to the other is not part of any handbook however, nor was it laid out in companion texts to the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. The recipe for turning coal, oil and gas into carbon-free watts and joules while curbing the seemingly irresistible rise of income and wealth inequalities seems as coveted as were alchemist formulae to turn sand into gold a few centuries ago. The practicality of the transition remains debatable, as global inequality and CO2 emissions seem stubbornly stuck to their long-term rising trend (Wid, 2018 ; Carbon Tracker Institute, 2019). To tackle the magnitude of inequality and environmental intertwined challenges, some scholars framed the concept of green welfare state or “ecostate” almost twenty years ago. They called for a transformation of the welfare state as we know it in most of OECD countries into a governance system supplying the insurance mechanisms and public goods and services to cope with environmental degradation and shocks. This paper is a quest of emerging ecostate in existing literature, and in most recent data. The first section presents a literature review on welfare state and ecostate, and on the expected transition from one to the other. In section two, we update Wood and Gough (2006) typology on welfare regimes to include the most recent available data covering income inequalities and environmental performance. We conduct an empirical multivariate analysis and come up with four distinct type of ecostates: unequal, super unequal, balanced and insecure. We focus in sections four and five on the particular case of insecure ecostates, which gathers a large share of emerging economies. Taking Nigeria as an example, we delineate the characteristics of ecostate insecurity and possible way forward, drawing on ongoing in-house research made in this country. Research gaps and bridging initiatives are hinted at in conclusion.
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Tancrède Voituriez. The quest for green welfare state in developing countries. 2020. ⟨hal-02876972⟩

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