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Climate Change, Sustainable Welfare and Eco-Social Policies

Climate Change, Sustainable Welfare and Eco-Social Policies: Social Policy Seminar Series 2016/17
Speaker: Prof Max Koch # Lund University
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Date and Time
31st Mar 2017 15:00 - 31st Mar 2017 17:30
Seminar Room 5, Chrystal Macmillan Building

Social Policy Seminar Series 2016/17: Talk 8

Max Koch, Lund University

Seminar Room 5, Chrystal Macmillan Building

Climate Change, Sustainable Welfare and Eco-Social Policies

Comparative empirical studies of the link between economic growth, carbon emissions and ecological footprints (Koch and Fritz 2014; Fritz and Koch 2016) suggest that current Western production and consumption patterns and welfare standards are incompatible with environmental limits and IPCC climate targets. In the absence of evidence for absolute decoupling of economic growth, material resource input and carbon emissions – and allowing for ‘catch-up’ development in poor countries – rich countries would need to review established development pathways and associated welfare standards to bring these in line with ecological thresholds and to reach UN climate targets. The paper discusses the provision of welfare in such a transition process with emphasis on the role of welfare and social policy. First, it introduces the concept of ‘sustainable welfare’ that integrates the two previously separate disciplines of welfare and sustainability research (Koch and Mont 2016). Distributive principles underlying existing welfare systems in the rich countries would need to be extended to include ‘non-citizens’: those affected in other countries and in the future. Sustainable welfare is oriented towards the satisfaction of human needs within ecological limits, from the intergenerational and global perspective. Second, the paper applies this concept to interpret ongoing comparative work on the environmental performance of real-world welfare states and the creation of synergy across economic, social and environmental policies. Finally, the paper discusses potential ‘eco-social’ policies such as wealth sharing, minimum and maximum incomes as well as carbon rationing that have the potential of moving existing (welfare) states closer to environmental sustainability.

*After the talk there will be a wider discussion with the whole audience. All attendees are then invited to attend an informal drinks reception from approximately 4.30pm*

Max Koch (PhD) is a professor in social policy at Lund University. An ongoing theme of his research has been the ways in which political and economic restructuring are reflected in the social structure with an emphasis on welfare and employment relations and in comparative perspective. More recently, he started to combine these research interests with issues of ecological sustainability, particularly climate change, ‘sustainable welfare’ and post-growth societies. Ongoing research projects include Sustainable European Welfare Societies: Assessing linkages between social and environmental policy (Research Council of Norway, 2014-2018); The New Urban Challenge? Models of Sustainable Welfare in Swedish Metropolitan Cities, FORMAS (Swedish Research Council, 2017-2021), and Connecting Social Policy and Urban Planning for a Low Carbon Future (Australian Research Council, 2016-2019).

Max Koch’s books include Capitalism and Climate Change: Theoretical Discussion, Historical Development and Policy Responses (Palgrave 2012), Non-Standard Employment in Europe: Paradigms, Prevalence and Policy Responses (Palgrave, Work and Welfare in Europe Series, 2013, co-edited with Martin Fritz) and Sustainability and the Political Economy of Welfare, Routledge, Routledge Studies in Ecological Economics, 2013 (co-edited with Oksana Mont). In a current Palgrave Pivot book project, he is critically examining, together with Milena Büchs from Leeds University, common assumptions about the ways in which a shift to a post-growth society might impact on people’s wellbeing.


Fritz, M and Koch, M. 2016. Economic Development and Prosperity Patterns around the World: Structural Challenges for a Global Steady-State Economy. Global Environmental Change 38: 41-48.

Koch, M. and Fritz, M. 2014. Building the Eco-Social State: Do Welfare Regimes Matter? Journal of Social Policy 43 (4): 679-703.

Koch, M. and Mont, O. (eds) 2016. Sustainability and the Political Economy of Welfare. London: Routledge.