Blueprint for a Sustainable Economy
By David Pearce and Edward B Barbier,
(Earthscan, pounds 12.95 paperback)
HOW GOOD are you at understanding the language of 21st-century business? Let's check. What do the following stand for: CCA? CVM? EKC? MBI? NUV? WTP? So, how many do you think you got? Did you even work out which single field these acronyms have sprouted from? And what do they have to do with one of the most interesting riddles of twentieth-century economics, the Mystery of the Missing Markets?
First a confession. One of the worst - and best - things I ever did was to abandon university economics. Big mistake, you might imagine, especially for someone destined to spend most of his career working with business. Not so.
In the late Sixties, economists had precious little to say on many of the issues Baby Boomers found taxing, most notably environmental concerns. Nor, at the time, did the world of business hold much obvious attraction.
But even as I switched to other fields, I kept an eye on the economics patch, hoping for green shoots. They were a long time coming.
Through the Seventies, it was impossible to escape reminders of the imperfections of environmental economics. Cost-benefit analysis, for example, tried to reduce decisions about investment projects such as dams, power stations or bridges, to a balancing act with financial costs on one side and the monetised value of any benefits on the other.
Great fun to watch from a safe distance - and who can now forget the magnificent, more-or-less doomed attempts to price-tag a Norman church standing in the path of an oncoming motorway?
But behind the caricatures, evolution was under way. What sticks in my mind is the series of quixotic annual meetings of The Other Economic Summit (TOES), which shadowed and critiqued the G7 meetings through the Eighties. TOES spawned The New Economics Foundation (NEF). But the real epicentre of the near-tectonic upheaval that began to transform environmental economics from 1989 was the London Environmental Economics Centre (LEEC).
LEEC produced the Pearce Report and a spin-off, Blueprint for a Green Economy, published in 1989. David Pearce became for several years the chief environmental adviser to the UK government. What was Blueprint 1 spawned four more Blueprints, exploring aspects of environmental economics. …