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Economic Analysis, Sustainability and Environmental Commons


  • Ignazio Musu

    () (Department of Economics, University of Venice C� Foscari)


When confronted with market weaknesses and failures determining sustainability problems for environmental common-pool resources, economic analysis has proposed government intervention as the only alternative available. Elinor Ostrom showed that this dichotomy between market and government is not always helpful, and proposed a more complex approach to institutions focusing on an active role of communities, social norms and a polycentric system of governance. This paper summarizes the main factors at work in determining the role of institutions to deal with sustainability issues and explores the implications of this wider approach in dealing with environmental commons, particularly with global environmental commons, discussing two issues: climate change and biodiversity. Involvement of governments and a reference framework provided by intergovernmental agreements are necessary, but the difficulties of building a successful intergovernmental institutional framework require responsible and convinced actions at the level of consumers and firms, public opinion involvement in individual countries, and coordination between local and national levels of government: provided that some conditions are fulfilled, common resource management can be very helpful in achieving them.

Suggested Citation

  • Ignazio Musu, 2013. "Economic Analysis, Sustainability and Environmental Commons," Working Papers 2013:20, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
  • Handle: RePEc:ven:wpaper:2013:20

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    More about this item


    Environment; Sustainability; Common-pool resources; Global environmental problems; Climate Change; Biodiversity;

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics

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