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Prosperity within Planetary Boundaries

Illustration by Martin Fengel

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Prosperity within Planetary Boundaries

The Think7 Inception Conference.

We cannot overlook that the cost of inaction is immensely higher than the cost of action.

THE NEW INSTITUTE hosted the Think7 Inception Conference to develop policy recommendations for Germany’s G7 presidency – one key question was how to create a cooperative economic order that serves social needs without damaging the planet.


The Anthropocene calls for a new, more inclusive system of global governance that takes into account planetary boundaries. The failures of the international economic system and their expression in multiple socio-ecological crises are well understood and rightfully find an important place in the G7 priorities of the German government. But the road to addressing these challenges is long and winding, with conflicts hindering the implementation efforts.

What role, then, can the G7 countries play in steering towards an international political and economic order that serves social needs within planetary boundaries? How can they foster cooperation and move from ambition to implementation?

These were the questions that representatives from think tanks and research institutions discussed during the three-day Think7 Inception Conference, hosted by THE NEW INSTITUTE – in partnership with Global Solutions Initiative and German Development Institute. Experts from the G7 countries and beyond met in January for this virtual conference, to develop policy impulses for the German G7 presidency and kick off the Think7 process.

One important topic of discussion was the idea of creating a climate club, to serve as an instrument for convergence and cooperation. Supported by the German government, the idea garnered broad support. Still there are open questions about the concrete design of such a climate club; about pricing, methodologies, sanctions and monitoring – which need to be clarified in order to build on the fragile progress of the recent COP26.

At the same time, another important question is how the climate club can be constructed inclusively and explicitly supportive towards the Global South, for both mitigation and adaptation. The G7 countries, covering almost half of the global GDP and around 45% of historically cumulative emissions, must make a contribution adequate to their specific economic responsibility and capacity. At the moment, the G7 countries are falling far short of this. Climate finance, a key condition for implementation, has been a buzzword – the promise made by the industrialized countries more than 10 years ago of $100 billion in annual support for mitigation and adaptation has not been kept so far.

“The government is keen to understand the further arguments from research why the cooperative way is the best one”.

The climate club, however, is only one of the many topics that the task forces, constituted at the Inception Conference, will be working on – putting special focus on a just transition, implementation and cooperation. This was also reiterated by the German G7 Sherpa Jörg Kukies when he expressed his expectations towards the think tanks and research institutions: “The government is keen to understand the further arguments from research why the cooperative way is the best one”.

The work of renowned political economist Elinor Ostrom - who received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2009 – offers great insights for Kukies query. After her decades-long research on cooperation and the sustainable management of commons, Ostrom concluded that “the core goal of public policy should be to facilitate the development of institutions that bring out the best in humans”. Taking a cue from this, we need to radically reform and develop several institutions and our cooperation approach to protect the global commons – including but not limited to climate, oceans and biodiversity, and ensure planetary health, economic recovery and social cohesion.

These challenges are at the heart of THE NEW INSTITUTE, and the Think7 Inception Conference is a building block for our Socio-Economic Transformation program, contributing to a paradigm change in economics as well as international economic policy. That is why, our fellows Ingo Venzke and Corine Pelluchon also contributed to the discussion at this year’s Inception Conference; with Ingo shedding light on carbon clubs and carbon border adjustment mechanisms and Corine sharing reflections on the need for an ecological enlightenment.

Having been part of this conference as well as a scientific observer, as a human being born in 1995, into the Anthropocene, and as a citizen, I believe the G7 need to push for more action – centering climate justice in climate politics, in both temporal and spatial dimensions. We cannot overlook that the cost of inaction is immensely higher than the cost of action. For these reasons, for me, this is personal.


At THE NEW INSTITUTE, Johannes Zieseniß supports the program Socio-Economic Transformation as a program coordinator and is also co-responsible for the internal sustainability management.

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