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Sustainability and externalities: Is the internalization of externalities a sufficient condition for sustainability?

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  • Bithas, Kostas

Abstract

In an important contribution in Ecological Economics, van de Bergh (2010) correctly concludes that sustainability does not imply zero externalities. However, he continues with the Delphic statement "(Delphic statements were uttered by the renowned oracle of ancient Greece at Delphi. They were phrased in such a way as to be self-fulfilling because alternative interpretations covered every possibility.)" "Without externalities the problem of sustainability vanishes". If this statement refers to an impossible economic process that produces no externalities then he is right. However, it might be interpreted as stating that whenever environmental policy internalizes environmental externalities then sustainability will be ensured. In this note, I assert that in the real world where externalities prevail, their internalization or neutralization in the traditional way cannot lead to sustainability. Only if internalization takes a very specific form that results in the inviolable preservation of environmental rights of future generations in pure biological terms can sustainability be ensured. After revised the original commentary I resubmit it. The issues raised by the editor have been carefully considered.

Suggested Citation

  • Bithas, Kostas, 2011. "Sustainability and externalities: Is the internalization of externalities a sufficient condition for sustainability?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(10), pages 1703-1706, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:10:p:1703-1706
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    Cited by:

    1. Halkos, George & Paizanos, Epameinondas, 2015. "Environmental Macroeconomics: A critical literature review and future empirical research directions," MPRA Paper 67432, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Ami, Dominique & Aprahamian, Frédéric & Chanel, Olivier & Joulé, Robert-Vincent & Luchini, Stéphane, 2014. "Willingness to pay of committed citizens: A field experiment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 31-39.
    3. repec:eee:ecolec:v:141:y:2017:i:c:p:245-260 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Gössling, Stefan & Choi, Andy S., 2015. "Transport transitions in Copenhagen: Comparing the cost of cars and bicycles," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 106-113.
    5. Levrel, Harold & Jacob, Céline & Bailly, Denis & Charles, Mahe & Guyader, Olivier & Aoubid, Schéhérazade & Bas, Adeline & Cujus, Alexia & Frésard, Marjolaine & Girard, Sophie & Hay, Julien & Laurans, , 2014. "The maintenance costs of marine natural capital: A case study from the initial assessment of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in France," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 37-47.
    6. Lázaro-Touza, Lara & Atkinson, Giles, 2013. "Nature, roads or hospitals? An empirical evaluation of ‘sustainable development preferences’," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 63-72.
    7. Remig, Moritz C., 2015. "Unraveling the veil of fuzziness: A thick description of sustainability economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 194-202.
    8. Rafael Laurenti & Jagdeep Singh & Rajib Sinha & Josepha Potting & Björn Frostell, 2016. "Unintended Environmental Consequences of Improvement Actions: A Qualitative Analysis of Systems' Structure and Behavior," Systems Research and Behavioral Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(3), pages 381-399, May.
    9. Liu, Qian & Zheng, Lucy, 2016. "Assessing the economic performance of an environmental sustainable supply chain in reducing environmental externalitiesAuthor-Name: Ding, Huiping," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 255(2), pages 463-480.

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