ERIK PAREDIS is Professor of Social and Political Science at Ghent University. GERT GOEMINNE is a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation, Flanders. WOUTER VANHOVE is a researcher in the Department of Plant Production at Ghent University. FRANK MAES is Professor of Public International Law at the Faculty of Law at Ghent University. JESSE LAMBRECHT is a researcher at the Centre for Environmental & Energy Law at Ghent University.
The Concept of Ecological Debt: Its Meaning and Applicability in International Policyby Erik Paredis, Gert Goeminne, Wouter Vanhove, Frank Maes
The concept of ecological debt was coined by southern NGOs at the beginning of the 1990s. It usually refers to the ecological damage caused by industrialized countries to the southern hemisphere and/or to the use of ecosystem services at the expense of southern-hemisphere countries. Currently, several NGO networks from north and south are campaigning for the recognition of the concept.
In Belgium, the concept made its way into the first Federal Plan for Sustainable Development 2001-2004, which explicitly states that “Belgium will study the concept of ecological debt and its practical applicability in policy”. This volume is the scientific report of the research project which resulted from this declaration of intent. It aims to clarify the concept of ecological debt (state of affairs, definition, methodology, frame of reference) and to study its relevance and applicability in Belgian and international policy. Research questions that are addressed include: What is and what is not included in the concept of ecological debt? Should it be defined in monetary terms or in energy and material flows? What are the (dis)advantages of quantifying ecological debt? What kind of methodology might be used in this respect? In which fields of science, policy, and activism did the concept originate? Is it possible to calculate ecological debt for issues such as food supply and climate change? If so, what are the mechanisms at work and what measures should be taken to avoid future debts? Finally, how can ecological debt be integrated in multilateral environmental agreements, what obstacles are to be expected and what kind of solutions might be found?
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