Is 2% Enough For the Planet?

Is 2% Enough For the Planet?

“If humanity invests just an extra 2% of Global GDP in developing eco-friendly technologies and infrastructure every year, this would be enough to prevent catastrophic climate change, while also creating lots of new jobs and economic opportunities”


In the grand scheme of global spending, 2% might seem like a marginal investment. Add a zero or two here and allocate a percent or two more into a particular sector, and we have the potential to save the world! How empowering is that? 

Setting optimism aside, let’s not be completely naive. If the solution for salvation were this simple, swift action would have already been taken. This is not to say that human political and individual action is always rational, which is not true by any stretch of the imagination. However, there is a suite of known solutions to some of the grandest challenges of our generation which have not reached their fullest potential of implementation, which is the result of systemic inefficiency, politics, and a slew of other factors.

The concept of ‘2% for the Planet’ aims to accelerate innovation to reverse this shortcoming, but it does not come without its own roadblocks. 

In order to truly weigh the feasibility of this radical ‘2% for the Planet’ concept, we must first dissect and understand the context of current GDP breakdown, projected future costs for mitigating various environmental concerns, and tangible actions that individuals can take to help untangle issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss. 

Crash Course in Global GDP Commitments

As a humbling anecdote to inform the context of similar international governmental affairs, let it be known that in 2014, “the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) increase their defense spending to 2 percent of their gross domestic products by 2024.” From the start, and until this day, it has been clear that this target was non-achievable by all 28 allies, yet the commitment still persisted without strenuous oversight. 

This example is not shared to promote a dismal, glass-half-empty approach to solving universal global challenges. Instead, it should serve as a word of caution and a valuable piece of advice to guide the allocation of 2% of the world’s GDP toward climate change and other environmental issues–especially as the global GDP is projected to increase 3.6% in 2022.

To avoid future failure, the baseline distribution of GDP across many sectors, which informs how funding could most likely be derived, is critical to understand. In the Netherlands, for example, about 70% of our GDP comes from services, 18% from industry, and about 2% from agriculture. Breaking this down even further, about 36000 EUR Millions come from services, 22000 EUR Millions from manufacturing, 13000 from public administration, and 10000 from construction.


Source: Trading Economics

Intrigued by how this transformative re-distribution might pan out, Israeli historian and best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari founded Sapienship, a multidisciplinary organization advocating for transparency and clarity in solving global challenges and pioneer of the 2% More movement. Through their ambitious campaign, the group asks three pertinent questions, each of which we will explore in some detail: 

  • What could be done with 2% of the global GDP?
  • What do politicians currently spend 2% of GDP on?
  • What can you do about it?

After deep diving into some of these important inquiries, we invite you to decide for yourself whether ‘2% for the Planet’ is a viable means to ending suffering around the world. 

What could be done with 2% of global GDP?

According to the Sapienship website, which cites journal articles in the Royal Society, polls published by Reuters, and reports from the International Energy Agency, at least three global challenges could be virtually solved by allocating 2% of global GDP: creation of a carbon neutral economy, conservation of the entire Amazon rainforest, and protection of the world’s developing nations.

In a previous blog, we discussed the cost to save the planet and the cost to end world hunger–both of which were significantly less than the 2% threshold (around $1.7 trillion according to 2020’s global GDP). Other reports have also estimated the combined costs of nature restoration in the realms of climate, biodiversity, and land degradation. According to the State of Finance for Nature report, these investments would amount to about $8.1 trillion over the next three decades, which again is significantly less than the $1.7 trillion annual 2% that Sapienship promotes. 

The struggle with budgeting for global humanitarian crises, though, is the number of uncertainties, butterfly effects, and unanticipated challenges and costs that may arise. While the aforementioned estimates are based on cutting-edge, reputable research, they are still estimates at the end of the day. That being said, erring on the side of 2% is not totally out of bounds from a cost coverage perspective.


What do politicians currently spend 2% of GDP on?

The next question Sapienship asks helps us to gain an understanding of current governmental expenditures in relativity. In other words, what would the opportunity cost of saving the planet be, or what are competing costs?

As one case study, let us look again at the current spending landscape of the Netherlands. Currently, government spending consumes about 40% of the country’s GDP. Of this spending, 50% of government expenditures were allocated to social benefits,15% to social protection, 7.7% to health, 4.1% to general public services, 5.0% to education, and 1.4% to environmental protection. Despite its reputation as one of the most sustainable countries in the world, funding from the federal government toward environmental initiatives suggests otherwise. Similar to many other western countries, highest ticket items include weapon systems, pensions, policing, and social housing. On the other hand, some promising expenditures include the cost of CO2 reduction options, health prevention and infrastructural planning which effectively serve to “save the planet.” The question arises then, what could be possible if the percentage of governmental environmental expenditures were to increase to 2% from 1.4%? And how would this compare with other countries around the world?

In the Sapienship report, four notable categories that politicians currently spend 2% on include: the military, direct fossil fuel subsidies, tax evasion, and wasted food. Funny enough, all of these budget items directly contradict the efforts of the 2% movement, with military operations requiring massive amounts of fuel and energy, fossil fuel subsidies shrouding out the rise of renewables, and wasted food being a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions from landfills. In this sense, it seems reasonable that some of these facets could be dammed from some of their headstreams to instead support more valiant, long-term causes.


Source: OECD

What can you do about it?

So how can we actually advocate for this divestment and start to personally take action? This is the last, perhaps most important, question the team at Sapienship proposes. Ultimately, they outline four main solutions:


  • Don’ t succumb to defeatism (i.e. be a force of positivity in conversation about the state of our world & what it would take to fix it)
  • Pester politicians relentlessly (i.e. sign petitions, contact local/regional/national government expressing your suggestions, vote, protest, etc.)
  • Convince the people you know that an extra 2% of Global GDP is personal business (i.e. ground the issue of saving the planet to your own home, family or neighborhood and take accountability)
  • Spread the word on social media (i.e. bring others onto the 2% train by sharing with your virtual network)

In addition to these recommendations, our team brings to light the benefit of buying with BOAS! Using our platform, you can personally contribute to the donation of all our profits from your purchasing to relevant charities that are helping to execute boots-on-the-ground work to combat climate change and other challenges. By supporting us, you can personally contribute to the change you wish to see in the world. As American anthropologist Margaret Mead once said,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

In other words, the global 2% really starts with one.