Yorkshire could follow New Zealand with 'Happiness Index' to replace GDP measurements

Yorkshire councils and businesses will be told to put climate considerations “at the heart of all of their major decisions” - while the region could start measuring success by 'happiness' rather than GDP under new climate change mitigation proposals.

A Happiness Index has been introduced in New Zealand by prime minister Jacinda Ardern - now Yorkshire could consider following suit.

Professor Andy Gouldson, Director of Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, told cross-party MPs this week: “We want to ask all major

actors to put climate at the heart of all of their major decisions, including strategic decision making but also policy and planning and investment decisions, and then to act in a consistent and joined-up way looking at what needs to be done.”

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He said reaching Yorkshire’s net zero target by 2038 is “hard enough to do it from here, but it’ll be even harder if we take major decisions that take us in the wrong direction that we then need to somehow compensate for”.

He was addressing a meeting of MPs as the Climate Commission prepares to publish a 50-point action plan in November on how Yorkshire can achieve its net zero ambitions and deal with the impacts of climate change.

Prof Gouldson says one of the ambitions of the Commission is to develop a Regional Climate Observatory that will enable the region to track “future risks and emerging issues including policy challenges”.

He suggested there could even be a regional reassessment of what constitutes success that moves away from a sole focus on GDP growth to take in other measures like health.

“We want to propose a different way of thinking about progress at the regional scale that doesn’t just rely on GDP, but also looks at other capitals like the health, happiness and wellbeing of the region, as well as the ecological viability of the region.”

He said the adjustment – which is similar to the ‘Happiness Index’ already operating in New Zealand after being introduced there in 2019 – would give people in Yorkshire “a different notion of what progress feels like as we move forward”.

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