From poverty to prosperity: the Earth4All initiative’s plan for economic systems change


In 1972, the Club of Rome published “The Limits to Growth” report, warning about the interconnected issues faced by humanity and the risk of overshooting the Earth’s carrying capacity. Despite this warning, the world has largely ignored the risk of system collapse for 50 years. However, in 2020, the Earth4All initiative brought together scientists, economic thinkers, and communicators to explore how we could accelerate the systems-change needed to achieve wellbeing for all on a finite planet.

The urgent need for transformation

The Earth4All initiative’s analysis focuses on three deeply intertwined systems: economy, society, and ecology. The team combines the best available science with new economic thinking to explore and develop bold proposals for the 21st century. The findings show the minimum actions needed to take now to achieve wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries.

15 immediate policies for economic systems change

The Earth4All initiative has developed a plan to redesign economic and social policies towards achieving wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries. Their five extraordinary turnarounds are the minimum requirements for achieving this goal.

However, the initiative recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to economic systems change. Here, we outline 15 immediate policies with significant systemic and long-term effects for achieving the five extraordinary turnarounds.

Eliminate poverty: The Earth4All poverty turnaround focuses on raising the national average income to USD$15,000 per year while restraining inequality. To achieve this goal, the following policies are proposed:

  1. The International Monetary Fund to allocate over US$1 trillion per year to poor countries for green jobs-creating investments.
  2. High-income countries should cancel all debt to low-income countries (<US$10.000 income per person).
  3. High-income countries and the World Trade Organization (WTO) should allow local protection of fledgling industries and encourage sustainable export expansion in low-income countries.

Reduce inequality: To ensure that the wealthiest 10% take less than 40% of national incomes, the Earth4All inequality turnaround proposes the following policies:

  1. Governments should increase taxes on the 10% richest in societies until they take less than 40% of national incomes by 2030.
  2. Governments should pass laws to strengthen workers’ rights and trade unionization.
  3. Governments should introduce citizens’ funds to give all citizens their fair share of a nation’s wealth and the global commons.

Empower women: Gender equity is essential for a fair and just future, and a stable planet. To achieve full gender equity, the following policies are proposed:

  1. All governments should increase education access to all girls and women.
  2. All corporations and public bodies should achieve gender equality in leadership positions.
  3. All governments should put adequate pension systems in place.

Transform food systems: To create a regenerative, sustainable food system that works for all within planetary boundaries, the following policies are proposed:

  1. Immediate access to food, reducing overconsumption, and an end of wastefulness in food chains.
  2. An end to agricultural expansion against nature.
  3. A transformation to healthy diets that respect planetary boundaries.

The energy turnaround: To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the following policies are proposed:

  1. Immediate redesign and phase-out of fossil-based energy systems.
  2. Energy efficiency.
  3. Tripling investments immediately to >$1 trillion/year in new renewables and energy efficiency technologies and practices as well as enhanced storage capacity.

Upgrade our economic system: To redefine what really matters in economic policies, the following policies are proposed:

  1. Government-sponsored citizen assemblies on what economic systems change citizens want to see.
  2. National universal basic dividends for a fair transformation.
  3. Adopt new economic and wellbeing indicators that deliver better outcomes for people and planet.


The Earth4All initiative’s plan for economic systems change outlines 15 immediate policies that can significantly impact achieving the five extraordinary turnarounds for wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries.

These policies vary depending on different social and political contexts, but their ultimate goal is to redefine what really matters in economic policies. The initiative calls for open discussions and conversations with citizens to create enough political support to make wellbeing for all on our planet possible.

Thought-provoking facts

  • According to the World Bank, in 2019, 9.2% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day.
  • According to a report by Oxfam International, the world’s richest 1% have more than twice the wealth of 6.9 billion people. The report also shows that between 1990 and 2015, the poorest half of the world’s population only saw their income increase by 3% while the richest 1% saw their income increase by 205%.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that one-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of food each year. This is a major issue for both the environment and the economy, as it results in wasted resources and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The International Labor Organization estimates that women earn on average 16% less than men globally.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that agriculture is responsible for around 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is a leading cause of deforestation, water pollution, and biodiversity loss.
  • According to the International Energy Agency, the world needs to invest $1.6 trillion per year in clean energy technologies through 2030 to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • In 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report warning that global temperatures could reach 1.5°C above preindustrial levels as early as 2030, causing more frequent and severe heatwaves, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events.
  • The Global Risks Report 2021 by the World Economic Forum identified climate action failure and biodiversity loss as two of the top five risks in terms of likelihood and impact over the next decade.
  • The Circular Economy Action Plan adopted by the European Commission in 2020 aims to increase the EU’s resource efficiency and reduce waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions, potentially creating 700,000 new jobs by 2030.
  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations in 2015 includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all, with a focus on leaving no one behind.
  • In 2020, women held only 29% of senior management roles globally, according to a report by Grant Thornton.
  • A study published in the journal Science in 2018 found that a shift towards plant-based diets could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and land use by up to 70% and 50%, respectively, compared to a baseline scenario.
  • According to research, countries with greater income equality perform better in all areas of human wellbeing and achievement. (source: World Economic Forum)

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