Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability: The Prospects for Green Growth

Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability: The Prospects for Green Growth

Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability: The Prospects for Green Growth

Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability: The Prospects for Green Growth

Synopsis

Paul Elkins breaks new ground in defining the conditions of compatibility between economic growth and environmental sustainability and provides measures and criteria by which the environmental sustainability of economic growth, as it occurs in the real world, may be judged.

Excerpt

This book is an investigation of the relationship between environmental sustainability, economic growth and human welfare, with an emphasis on the first two. This relationship is an important one. Certainly economic growth remains perhaps the prime objective of economic policy. Certainly too environmental sustainability has over the last ten years climbed high up the public agenda. Whether these two public objectives are in fact compatible or not is of critical concern. Indeed, for some economists, ‘the link between sustainable resource use and growth is, perhaps, the key economic question’ (Goldin and Winters 1995:2).

The link is also a much studied one. The literature on economic growth and the environment is huge, as the very partial bibliography for this book indicates. Yet the widest disagreement about the relationship remains. Common (1995:112ff.) notes a difference of opinion between (some) economists and (some) biologists on this issue. But there are just as significant disagreements between economists. Thus Goldin and Winters (1995:14) conclude that ‘economic growth and development are perfectly consistent with environmental protection’, while for Daly (1990:1), ‘sustainable growth is an oxymoron’.

Common (1995:45) asks the question ‘Which view is correct?’ and immediately answers it: ‘No-one really knows. Reasonable people may reasonably differ on the question.’

This book will arrive at a somewhat different conclusion. It will show that the views in question are both correct in that they are consistent with the assumptions on which they are based. This shifts the question to: what are their assumptions? and which assumptions are correct? The book identifies the assumptions and explores their theoretical and practical implications. It makes some assumptions of its own in order to arrive at an operational definition of sustainability. It identifies the conditions for economic growth to be compatible with environmental sustainability. It examines the evidence of the link between economic performance and different environmental impacts. It finds that actually the relationship between economic

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