Author: Tim Jackson and Robin Webster
Date: 2017
Publisher: PDF Download


This report to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Limits to Growth has been published under Creative Commons, CC BY- NC-ND 4.0. You are welcome to reproduce the material for non-commercial use, credited the authors with a link to this report:


The aim APPG on Limits to Growth is to provide a new platform for cross-party dialogue on economic prosperity in a time of environmental and social transition. The APPG is chaired by Caroline Lucas MP (Green) and co-chaired by George Kerevan MP (SNP) and Daniel Zeichner MP (Labour). The Secretariat for the APPG on Limits to Growth is provided by the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) at the University of Surrey.

Its principal aims are to: 

  • Create the space for cross-party dialogue on specific economic risks related to environmental and social limits, 
  • Assess the evidence for such limits, identify the risks and build support for appropriate responses and
  • Contribute to the international debate on redefining prosperity and measures of growth. 

The Executive Summary

"Four and a half decades after the Club of Rome published its landmark report on Limits to Growth, the study remains critical to our understanding of economic prosperity. This new review of the Limits debate has been written to mark the launch of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Limits to Growth.

The 1972 report articulated for the first time the dynamic nature of our dependency on physical resources and on ecological systems. It illustrated the processes of ‘overshoot and collapse’ that can occur when these limits are approached and suggested that, without a shift in direction, adverse consequences would become obvious “within the next century”. The report attracted fierce controversy. It also inspired generations of environmental and social thinkers. It continues to offer challenging insights into the predicaments of the 21st Century economy.

Limits Revisited outlines the contents of the Club of Rome’s report, traces the history of responses to it and dispels some of the myths surrounding it. We unravel the arguments that have raged for forty years in its aftermath and explore more recent findings which relate to the original hypothesis.

There is unsettling evidence that society is still following the ‘standard run’ of the original study – in which overshoot leads to an eventual collapse of production and living standards. Detailed recent studies suggests that production of some key resources may only be decades away.

Certain other limits to growth – less visible in the 1972 report – present equally pressing challenges to modern society. We highlight, in particular, recent work on our proximity to ‘planetary boundaries’ and illustrate this through the challenge of meeting the Paris Agreement on climate change. We also explore the economic challenge of a ‘secular stagnation’.

If the Club of Rome is right, the next few decades are decisive. One of the most important lessons from the study is that early responses are absolutely vital as limits are approached. Faced with these challenges, there is also clearly a premium on creating political space for change and developing positive narratives of progress. A part of the aim of the APPG is create that space."

Relevance: The need to change things is becoming more and more pressing