Growth indicators should take into account social progress and the use of natural resources, said a number of NGO and institutional leaders at a conference in Louvain-la-Neuve, at which the European Investment Bank revealed it was still unable to fully measure its ecological footprint.
Meeting this week on the empty Walloon campus for the first year of the international forum 'One People, One Planet', stakeholders and activists agreed that policies should integrate financial, economic and environmental considerations.
To measure growth participants suggested that countries should emphasise different aggregates, which would go beyond GDP to facilitate comparability and ecological benchmarking.
Laws should cut across institutions and beyond borders to avoid contradictions and tardiness, and new methods to measure growth and engage citizens should be developed, the conference heard.
Politicians are often under short-term budgetary and electoral constraints, which does not leave much room for dealing with the environment, stakeholders said.
Participatory democracy was seen by participants as a way to educate people about their behaviour and encourage them to speak out, from the bottom up. On the other side of the legitimacy range, international experts could lend credibility to long-term visions.
The European Citizens' Initiative, the EU's upcoming attempt at participative processes, was mentioned by several speakers as a means of leveraging best-practice exercises.
(euractiv.com was a media partner of the event.)