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How Substitutable is Natural Capital?


  • Anil Markandya

    (Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, World Bank and University of Bath)

  • S. Pedroso

    (World Bank)


One of the recurring themes in the sustainability literature has been the legitimacy of using an economic framework to account for natural resources. This paper examines the potential for substituting between different inputs in the generation of income, where the inputs include natural resources such as land and energy resources. A nested CES production function is used to allow flexibility in the estimated elasticities of substitution. Also, with this specification, natural resources and other inputs are combined in different levels of the function, thus allowing for different levels of substitutability. Institutional and economic indicators are also incorporated in the production function estimated. Results show that the elasticities derived from functions involving land resources were generally around one or greater. Furthermore, changes in trade openness and private sector investment have a statistically significant and direct relationship with income generation. No statistically significant relationship between income and any of the institutional indicators was found.

Suggested Citation

  • Anil Markandya & S. Pedroso, 2005. "How Substitutable is Natural Capital?," Working Papers 2005.88, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  • Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2005.88

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anderson, Kent P., 1972. "Optimal growth when the stock of resources is finite and depletable," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 256-267, April.
    2. Geir Asheim & Wolfgang Buchholz & Cees Withagen, 2003. "The Hartwick Rule: Myths and Facts," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 25(2), pages 129-150, June.
    3. Griffin, James M & Gregory, Paul R, 1976. "An Intercountry Translog Model of Energy Substitution Responses," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(5), pages 845-857, December.
    4. Kemfert, Claudia, 1998. "Estimated substitution elasticities of a nested CES production function approach for Germany," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 249-264, June.
    5. Chang, Kuo-Ping, 1994. "Capital-energy substitution and the multi-level CES production function," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 22-26, January.
    6. Gasper A. Garofalo & Devinder M. Malhotra, 1988. "Aggregation of Capital and Its Substitution with Energy," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 251-262, Jul-Sep.
    7. Mitra, Tapan, 1978. "Efficient growth with exhaustible resources in a neoclassical model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 114-129, February.
    8. Prywes, Menahem, 1986. "A nested CES approach to capital-energy substitution," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 22-28, January.
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    More about this item


    Wealth accounting; Natural resources; Nested CES production function;

    JEL classification:

    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • Q24 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Land
    • Q32 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Exhaustible Resources and Economic Development

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