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Sustainability and Development


  • Edward B. Barbier

    () (Department of Economics and Finance, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82070)


Sustainable development requires that per capita welfare does not decline over time. The minimum condition is ensuring that any depletion of natural capital is compensated by reproducible and human capital, so that the value of the aggregate stock does not decrease. Meeting this condition is problematic if natural capital includes ecosystems, which not only provide unique goods and services but are also prone to irreversible conversion and abrupt collapse. Net domestic product accounting rules for the depreciation of the total stock of reproducible, human, and natural capital of an economy can be extended to incorporate the direct benefits provided by ecosystems. They also can integrate any capital revaluation that occurs through ecosystem restoration and conversion and the threat of irreversible collapse. These approaches confirm the economic interpretation of sustainability as nondeclining welfare. They can also be used to estimate the changes in the value of ecological capital due to economic activity.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward B. Barbier, 2016. "Sustainability and Development," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 8(1), pages 261-280, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:anr:reseco:v:8:y:2016:p:261-280

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    Cited by:

    1. Daniela Covino & Rosa Malgeri Manzo, 2017. "The violation of human rights and the exploitation of youth in developing countries," RIVISTA DI STUDI SULLA SOSTENIBILITA', FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2017(1), pages 27-46.
    2. Barbier, Edward B. & Burgess, Joanne C., 2019. "Sustainable development goal indicators: Analyzing trade-offs and complementarities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 295-305.

    More about this item


    ecological capital; inclusive wealth; national accounts; natural capital; sustainable development;

    JEL classification:

    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth


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