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Publication Detail
Environmental sustainability: From environmental valuation to the sustainability gap
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Ekins P
  • Publisher:
  • Publication date:
  • Pagination:
    629, 651
  • Journal:
  • Volume:
  • Issue:
  • Print ISSN:
  • Language:
  • Keywords:
    environmental functions, environmental sustainability, sustainability standards, sustainability gap, CLIMATE-CHANGE, FRAMEWORK, UK
  • Addresses:
    UCL Energy Inst
    WC1H 0NN
This paper reflects on the extensive literature on environmental sustainability that has been produced over the last two decades, and proposes a new approach for environmental policy that goes beyond the cost-benefit analysis that has proved so difficult to implement for non-marginal environmental issues. This approach combines the Safe Minimum Standard approach, which was proposed many years ago, with the concepts of environmental functions and ecosystem goods and services, which have been developed much more recently. It is shown that this approach provides the basis for a robust calculation of sustainability across different environmental themes, following which a 'sustainability gap', showing the extent to which this standard is not being met, may be computed. This gap may be expressed in both physical and monetary terms, which permits the formulation of sustainability performance in a scientifically robust, easily communicable indicator that may be compared with GDP. While there appear to be no insurmountable scientific or practical obstacles to the full operationalization of this approach, it remains to be seen whether human societies are sufficiently concerned about the implications of continuing environmental unsustainability to make the resources available for such operationalization, and to enact the policies to allow the sustainability standards to be met.
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