Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Feature Essay

Covid-19, climate change, and the environment: a sustainable, inclusive, and resilient global recovery

BMJ 2021; 375 doi: (Published 06 October 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:n2405

Read our latest coverage of the climate emergency

Rapid Response:

Degrowth Re: Covid-19, climate change, and the environment: a sustainable, inclusive, and resilient global recovery

Dear Editor

On reading the co-authored essay by Professor Stern and Bob Ward

Covid19, climate change, and the environment : delivering a sustainable, inclusive, and resilient global recovery
BMJ 2021; 375:n2405

I was surprised by the paragraph:

“Greater understanding of the urgency required to cut carbon emissions has been accompanied by mounting evidence that it does not mean sacrificing economic development and growth. Annual emissions by the United Kingdom, for example, fell by 43.8% between 1990 and 2019, whereas its gross domestic product rose by 78%over the same period….”

I am assuming that they had not consulted their colleague, at the London School of Economics, Dr Jason Hickel before writing the essay. His recent book “Less is More” underlines the need for Degrowth in the Global North (rather than ever increasing GDP) as the only way to …. "deliver a sustainable, inclusive, and resilient global recovery”.

Some points to remember
• GDP is a flawed metric, better to use a Sustainable Development Index
• continuous growth and material resource extraction in the context of a finite planet does not make mathematical sense
• if negative externalities are included annual emissions of the UK have not fallen between 1990 and 2019
• degrowth, climate justice and better global governance are all vital if the world is to avoid climate catastrophe ie the world needs system change

In the same issue of the BMJ, I would commend the Analysis piece by Professor Theresa Marteau and colleagues

Changing behaviour for net zero 2050
BMJ2021; 375:n2293

The piece covers the policies needed for net zero very well and highlights the importance that they are driven by evidence and citizen’s values. Also your opening summary for the climate change special issue correctly identifies that "driving system change …. to cut emissions means advocating political action and quickly" because it would have been better if we had started 30 years ago!

The battle is going to be difficult

• renewable energy revolution
• global environmental activism

• vested interests
• status quo inertia

There is hope to be found in action.


Dr Mark Dick
General Practitioner

Competing interests: No competing interests

19 October 2021
Charles Mark Dick