Sustainability Will Require Economic Degrowth

37 (2) Environmental Law Forum 43 (March/April 2020)

1 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2020

See all articles by Carmen G. Gonzalez

Carmen G. Gonzalez

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Date Written: March 14, 2020


Sustainable development came of age with the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. The SDGs represent a commitment by world leaders to achieve integrated and interdependent economic, social, and environmental targets by 2030, with particular emphasis on the protection of vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly, indigenous peoples, refugees, migrants, and internally displaced persons. The SDGs overcome the fragmentation of international law by recognizing that environmental law, economic law, and human rights law must not operate in silos or at cross-purposes. However, the SDGs contain a fatal flaw. They continue to envision economic growth as the primary engine of poverty reduction. By failing to recognize the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet, the SDGs perpetuate the contradiction between economic growth and ecological sustainability that has long bedeviled the concept of sustainable development.

Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals, degrowth, sustainable development

Suggested Citation

Gonzalez, Carmen G., Sustainability Will Require Economic Degrowth (March 14, 2020). 37 (2) Environmental Law Forum 43 (March/April 2020), Available at SSRN:

Carmen G. Gonzalez (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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