Does the Netherlands have to exit growth in order to meet its climate goals?

7 borders crossed

The study showed that board members often underestimate the breadth of the sustainability issue. The focus is mainly on climate, Van der Rijt says, but that’s only one of the nine planetary boundaries. There are already all over the world exceed sixincluding biodiversity loss and global warming.

Without a broad approach, the transition is ineffective, because all boundaries are connected, says van der Rijt with an example. “For solar panels, batteries and wind turbines, you need rare earth metals, and often this production is done in developing countries in a very polluting way, under poor working conditions. In doing so we fulfill the climate ambitions here, but you create environmental pollution and poorer lives far away” .

There is no technical fix

Van der Rijt then emphasizes that degrowth is not a “technical fix” for more circular entrepreneurship. It is a socio-cultural transformation based on the principle: the broader shoulders bear the heavier burdens.

Another starting point is that the rich global North must pay for its polluting consumption behaviour. The United States, Canada, Europe, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Japan collectively emit 92% of carbon emissions above the planetary safe limit, while the damage associated with climate change is mainly felt in the Global South.


Declining growth is still utopian in the Netherlands, but if green innovations don’t catch up with climate problems or if not enough is invested in them, we will soon need such a vision.

Van der Rijt says that for the growth of the Dutch economy, positive incentives are especially needed. “If you implement a tax on consumption instead of a tax on labor, companies will make products that last longer, that you can fix, and that are made of hardware like Fairphone. People will still have a job, but there will be a shift in how they spend their time.”

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