Costing the Earth?: Restructuring the Economy for Sustainable Development


Our economies must react. "Sustainable behavior must pay off" - this is one of the central tenets of The Sustainability Project. Costing the Earth: Restructuring the Economy for Sustainable Development outlines the economic conditions for achieving the goal of sustainable development, in Europe and around the world. It also explains the incentives for sustainable economic management using economic tools.

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Costing the Earth?: Perspectives on Sustainable Development

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Our economies must react. "Sustainable behavior must pay off" - this is one of the central tenets of The Sustainability Project. Costing the Earth: Restructuring the Economy for Sustainable Development outlines the economic conditions for achieving the goal of sustainable development, in Europe and around the world. It also explains the incentives for sustainable economic management using economic tools.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A gift to sustainability science by German businessman and editor Wiegandt, the "Sustainability Project" ( is a 12-volume, 3000-page series (of which these four titles were submitted for review) initially published in Germany. The aim is to present current research on complex topics in a manner accessible to general readers while keeping content scientifically sound. The series succeeds, but by no means is it a walk in the park; Wiegandt makes no apologies, asking 12 leading experts to explore critical environmental, economic, and social pressure points that must be addressed in the next 30 years. A survey of some of its constituent titles suggests this set's breadth: Our Threatened Oceans, Feeding the Planet, The Demise of Diversity, Overcrowded World?, Climate Change, and The New Plagues. The volumes are not numbered, but Jill Jäger's Our Planet: How Much More Can Earth Take?, with its discussion of planetary "overshoot," generally introduces the other titles, while Harald Müller's take on future world governance in Building a New World Order: Sustainable Policies for the Future provides a fitting conclusion. The argument carried relatively uniformly through all 12 volumes—i.e., confront the dismal truth about conditions, then suggest possible courses of action—lends the set unity, as does the way project authors refer to one another's work (an obvious method of linking the pieces together, a cumulative index, is lacking). Many of the solutions offered are practical and well known, e.g., label consumer products with metrics that will inform potential buyers of their real ecological cost and use less energy. Otherrecommendations are sensible but tough, e.g., "dematerialize" American society by a factor of ten within a few decades and make the knowledge presented here part of the educational curriculum from kindergarten through university. But one of Müller's recommendations, though wished-for, seems downright contrary to (human) nature—his suggestion to outlaw war. VERDICT Glossaries, graphics, and brief reading lists help to make the dauntingly comprehensive "Sustainability Project" palatable for advanced readers. While academic and large public libraries will no doubt want the entire set, smaller libraries could safely buy the relatively inexpensive individual titles on hot topics like climate change and water resources. Those wanting more graphics and less text will find a superb alternative purchase in Norman Myers and Jennifer Kent's The New Atlas of Planet Management. James Gustave Speth's The Bridge at the End of the World would be another solid choice.—Robert Eagan, Windsor P.L., Ont.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Bernd Meyer is Professor of Macro Economics at the University of Osnabräck. He was chairman of the department of Evolutionary Economics at the Society of Economic and Social Sciences, and chairman of the Council of Advisors for Economic-Environmental Accounting at the German Ministry for the Environment.

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Table of Contents

Editor's Foreword ix

1 Introduction 1

An outline 1

Chapter contents 6

2 Where is the World Floating? 14

Economic growth and competition between industrialized countries and emerging developing countries 14

Continuous population growth 19

Increased raw material extractions and a continued rise in the emissions of pollutants 24

Tougher international competition for increasingly scarcer resources 30

The repercussions of ever increasing environmental damage 31

3 What are the Causes, and What Kind of Solutions do We Have? 38

The difference between the personal and social costs of using the environment 38

Economic instruments: tax, trading in licenses and subsidies 39

The necessary supplementary measures: communications and information policies, and cooperative solutions 47

Alternative regulatory policy instruments 50

Promoting intrinsic motivation 51

Ecological social market economy 52

4 The Sustainability Paradigm 56

The spirit of Rio 56

The three dimensions of sustainability 59

Why some ecologists and economists do not like this concept 66

From preventive environmentalism to sustainability strategies 67

Reconstructing the economy by increasing resource productivity 70

5 What Options Are There For Increasing Resource Productivity? 76

The Sufficiency Strategy: the role of the consumer 76

The Efficiency Strategy: Factor 10 innovations and investments to increase resource productivity 82

The importance of key technologies 90

6 What Precisely Needs to Change to Enable increased Resource Productivity in Europe? 97

Sustainability is indivisible 98

The role of economic instruments 100

Further developing emissions tradingallowances 101

The ecological tax reform 107

State-operated efficiency agencies 110

Subsidies for the use of innovative technologies 117

Research funding 120

The certification of consumer goods, durable goods, and buildings 122

The selection of technical standards for vehicles, buildings, and equipment 125

Education for sustainable development 128

Sustainability and business management 129

7 A Country in Focus: Germany What Changes Will Have to be Made to the Labor Market and to the Social Security System? 131

The labor market and demographic change - a status quo forecast 131

Mobilizing labor supply and education campaigns 137

Minimum income and the flexibilization of the labor market 140

Problems for the social security system? 142

8 Perspectives for More Sustainable Development in Europe 145

Estimating the potential of future developments using environmental economic models 145

The MOSUS Project - alternative scenarios for development in Europe 152

Can Europe's targets for sustainable development be met? 155

The global perspective 160

9 Creating an International Framework 166

The alternative: no international framework 166

The first attempt: the Kyoto Protocol 168

The problem with balancing the interests of the developing countries, the newly industrialized countries, and the industrial countries 175

10 Final Comments 179

Glossary 181

Bibliography 190

Picture References 195

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