Until now, that is. A couple of days ago the government of South Korea announced that it would invest 50 trillion Won - £25.2 billion - over the next four years on environmental projects which will create nearly a million jobs. According to the Associated Press, the money will be directed to "energy conservation, recycling, carbon reduction, flood prevention, development around the country's four main rivers and maintaining forest resources".
The conference, which is hosted by the University of Warwick, will address the applications of positive psychology in work, education and the wider community. Nic will be speaking on 'The Power of Well-being: Measuring what Matters and Transforming Policy'.
In the US, Barack Obama has given his first public address after being elected in November. Last Thursday he revealed some of his plans to help the ailing American economy, including several hints of a Green New Deal:
There are plenty of arguments voiced loudly across the press, so let's just pick two of them. The first is the economic argument. Business leaders are currently urging ministers to approve the plans to expand Heathrow on the grounds that a new runway is vital if Britain wants to remain competitive, especially when the country is facing a recession if not depression. Businesses in London, they say, will suffer if the airport is improved and enlarged. The second argument is more of a class thing. More
But has German chancellor, Angela Merkel, found the answer? This week she pledged a EUR50bn (£44bn) package of subsidies to Germany's car industry that will be tied to producing low-emission vehicles. On one hand it fits a model of using the opportunity of the recession to regear the economy along environmental lines. And it's a big issue in a country in which the car industry is still one of the most significant employers. But, it's also problematic for a nation addicted to speed limit-free autobahns and big-engined luxury cars.
There are other reasons for healthy scepticism. If they get the money, will the promises be kept? German car makers have been among the most vocal in resisting new environmental vehicle standards. The European motor industry as a whole has a bad track record. A decade-long target for reducing average vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, set in 1998, was missed by 38% (and more so in the UK).
Whether or not you believe the industry's promises to behave better, there's another, bigger problem that improving the fuel efficiency of individual vehicles doesn't address. The overall pollution from a massively growing global vehicle fleet is ballooning. Where climate change is concerned, it's not about miles per gallon, it's about the total number of gallons. The gradual substitution of slightly less polluting cars in a few markets barely touches the huge and growing consumption of fuel by the world's vehicles. This is even more important now that the bubble of the green claims for biofuels has been burst.
In 1950 there were an estimated 70m cars, trucks and buses on the world's roads. Towards the end of the century there was between 600m and 700m. By 2025 the figure is expected to pass one billion.
When Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, heard about the India car maker Tata's new Nano - the world's cheapest - he said that it was giving him nightmares. ''This is not the transport option for the country of a billion people," he said, "many of whom cannot afford to buy even a bus ticket."
Just before the announcement on Heathrow, the newspaper comment pages were overflowing with the pros and cons of expansion. The prospect of new jobs at the airport was enough for TUC leader Brendan Barber to support the new runway. More
It follows hot on the heels of the Hooper review (pdf) into the impact of liberalisation (read: deregulation, competition and sell-offs) on postal services. This review (with its recommendation that up to a third of Royal Mail be put for sale to other organisations) plaintively said that the future of post offices was outside its remit.
Our new report, National Accounts of Well-being: bringing real wealth onto the balance sheet, published on Saturday, provides a different response to the question. It argues that the success of nations is best measured in terms of the things that really matter to the people who live in them: their experiences, feelings and perceptions of how their lives are going. In other words, their subjective well-being. More