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

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  • Bithas, Kostas
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    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.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 70 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 10 (August)
    Pages: 1703-1706

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:10:p:1703-1706
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