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Defining sustainability objectives

Author

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  • Vincent Martinet

Abstract

Two of the challenges of thinking sustainability are how to deal with potentially conicting issues and how to ensure intergenerational equity. In practice, policymakers define sustainability objectives by setting thresholds that act as constraints on indicators. When defining a specific objective, they usually do not take into account either potential conflicts with other objectives or the diffculty to achieve all of them over time. In this paper, we propose an approach that defines sustainability objectives represented by a set of constraints on indicators and their associated thresholds. This approach meets the challenges of sustainability because objectives are defined such that all the constraints can be satisfied at all times. The thresholds are interpreted as minimal rights to be guaranteed to all generations, in a Rawlsian equity perspective. To define them, we have developed a criterion, which is, from a mathematical point of view, a "generalized" maximin. Applying the criterion is a two-step process. Firstly, the set of achievable objectives, given the endowment of the economy, is defined, revealing the necessary trade-offs between them. Secondly, a static optimization of sustainability preferences on that set results in the proposed definition of sustainability objectives. We illustrate this approach by applying it to a canonical model often used to investigate sustainability issues (Dasgupta-Heal-Solow model; Review of Economic Studies 1974). We emphasize the relevance of this approach because it rationalizes the practice of using indicators to deal with sustainability in terms of the given challenge. We also discuss how to apply our approach to real sustainability issues.

Suggested Citation

  • Vincent Martinet, 2009. "Defining sustainability objectives," EconomiX Working Papers 2009-7, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
  • Handle: RePEc:drm:wpaper:2009-7
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    File URL: http://economix.fr/pdf/dt/2009/WP_EcoX_2009-07.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Michel De Lara & Vincent Martinet & Luc Doyen, 2010. "Risk and Sustainability : Is Viability that far from Optimality?," EconomiX Working Papers 2010-7, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    sustainability; indicators; intergenerational equity; criterion; minimal rights; viability;

    JEL classification:

    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • Q32 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Exhaustible Resources and Economic Development
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis

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