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Limits to growth, sustainable development and environmental kuznets curves: an examination of the environmental impact of economic development

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  • Matthew A. Cole

    (University of Birmingham, UK)

Abstract

The nature of the relationship between economic development and the environment has been discussed since the 1960s, yet opinion remains divided. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between economic growth and environmental degradation and begins by reviewing the largely theoretical discussions from the 'limits to growth' debate of the 1970s to the advent of sustainable development in the 1980s. The paper then examines the recent studies that have subjected the growth - environment relationship to a statistical analysis through the estimation of environmental Kuznets curves (EKCs). The extent to which these studies indicate a decoupling of environmental damage from growth is considered and reasons are suggested why some environmental indicators appear to improve with growth whilst others deteriorate. In order to illustrate the need to interpret EKCs carefully, forecasts of global emissions are made, for the period 1990-2020, for two pollutants that EKCs suggest are being decoupled from economic growth. Policy implications are then discussed. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew A. Cole, 1999. "Limits to growth, sustainable development and environmental kuznets curves: an examination of the environmental impact of economic development," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 7(2), pages 87-97.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:sustdv:v:7:y:1999:i:2:p:87-97
    DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-1719(199905)7:2<87::AID-SD102>3.0.CO;2-5
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Beckerman, Wilfred, 1992. "Economic growth and the environment: Whose growth? whose environment?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 481-496, April.
    2. Gene M. Grossman & Alan B. Krueger, 1995. "Economic Growth and the Environment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(2), pages 353-377.
    3. Ekins, Paul, 1993. "'Limits to growth' and 'sustainable development': grappling with ecological realities," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 269-288, December.
    4. Shafik, Nemat, 1994. "Economic Development and Environmental Quality: An Econometric Analysis," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(0), pages 757-773, Supplemen.
    5. Cole, M.A. & Rayner, A.J. & Bates, J.M., 1997. "The environmental Kuznets curve: an empirical analysis," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 2(04), pages 401-416, November.
    6. Selden Thomas M. & Song Daqing, 1994. "Environmental Quality and Development: Is There a Kuznets Curve for Air Pollution Emissions?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 147-162, September.
    7. Ruttan, Vernon W., 1994. "Constraints on the design of sustainable systems of agricultural production," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 209-219, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christoph Lieb, 2004. "The Environmental Kuznets Curve and Flow versus Stock Pollution: The Neglect of Future Damages," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 29(4), pages 483-506, December.
    2. El Alaoui, Aicha & Nekrache, Hassane, 2017. "For sustainable economic growth that seeks to improve environmental quality: an empirical analysis applied to morocco, algeria, tunisia, and egypt," MPRA Paper 85121, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Mar 2018.
    3. Fotis, Panagiotis & Polemis, Michael, 2018. "Sustainable development, environmental policy and renewable energy use: A dynamic panel data approach," MPRA Paper 85018, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Theodore P. Lianos & Anastasia Pseiridis, 2016. "Sustainable welfare and optimum population size," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 18(6), pages 1679-1699, December.
    5. Tisdell, Clem, 2001. "Globalisation and sustainability: environmental Kuznets curve and the WTO," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 185-196, November.
    6. Theo Eicher & Jeff Begun, 2008. "In Search of a Sulphur Dioxide Environmental Kuznets Curve: A Bayesian Model Averaging Approach," Working Papers UWEC-2007-19-P, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
    7. Mehdi Abbas, 2011. "Mondialisation et développement. Quelle soutenabilité au régime de l'organisation mondiale du commerce ?," Post-Print halshs-00602996, HAL.

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