Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta stands on stage at Wigtown Book Festival, speaking behind a lecturn. Chair Graeme Stewart sits at a table nearby. They are both in front of Wigtown Banners.

Economist Condemns Sunak at Festival


World-leading Economist Condemns PM’s Row Back On Green Policies As ‘Reprehensible’

  • Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, author of Government-commissioned review, says business needs certainty for clean energy transition
  • Policy shifts criticised as undermining UK’s ability to negotiate with overseas governments on environmental protection

World-leading economist and author of a major review, Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, today described the prime minister’s rowing back on green commitments as “reprehensible”.

The Cambridge Academic, and author of the influential The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – commissioned by HM Treasury – was at the Wigtown Book Festival today where he delivered the second annual James Mirrlees Lecture.

The review called for changes in how we think, act and measure economic success to protect and enhance our prosperity and the natural world.

One of his major concerns is finding ways to encourage countries with tropical rainforests to halt their destruction and also to better protect the world’s oceans.

Asked his views on Rishi Sunak’s recent statement on changes in green policies he said: “I want to point to two of the less obvious reasons as to why it's so reprehensible.

“One is that in the world of manufacturing, the world of business and in the world of production, you need lead time.

“It was really interesting that the earliest criticisms came from producers, saying ‘how can we plan the transition to clean energy when we have to billions of dollars of investment if the entire time horizon shifts?’.

“I think that's well worth bearing in mind because this is not a left right issue.

“The second reason why it's reprehensible relates to biodiversity and how we can negotiate and persuade poor countries to better manage their natural capital, for example to protect the rainforest.

“They'll be saying ‘well, in Europe as soon as you feel the pinch, the first cut is to Mother Nature’. It means that our moral status and our position in negotiations in weakened.”

Prof. Dasgupta believes that conventional approaches to measuring economic performance are fundamentally flawed because they do not take account of the growing depreciation of the Earth’s natural resources and the harm done to environmental systems we depend on.

He argues for a new approach that sets loss and replenishment of natural resources and the environment alongside measures such as GDP, and that the world needs to act to ensure that everyone should pay for what they use.

He likens our current approach to economics as being like a football team that only counts the goals it scores and not the ones it concedes. Superficially it can appear like everything is going well, when in fact it’s losing every game.

After the Dasgupta Review was published in 2021 the Government outlined its response including “the ways in which the government will go further in light of many of the Review’s conclusions”.