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International trade and the sustainability footprint: a practical criterion for its assessment

By John L. R. Proops, Giles Atkinson, Burkhard Frhr.v. Schlottheim and Sandrine Simon


A simple and minimal criterion for sustainability is that the value of natural capital plus manufactured capital be not decreasing. On the basis of any individual country or region, the above simple comparison may be misleading, as it does not take account of the production of goods for consumption in other countries/regions, via international trade. In other terms, the full `environmental footprint' of a country may not be properly assessed. A method of calculating a weak sustainability criterion has been established for both a `closed' economy approach and an `open' economy approach. There are significant differences between the open and closed economies measures for several regions, particularly the Middle East. Overall, global sustainability on this criterion has been positive, and increasing. Using a difference equation approach, a further analysis has been made of the average proportional rate of change of global sustainability between 1980 and 1990, and its various regional and structural components have been determined. These indicate that most of global sustainability growth can be attributed to Western Europe, Other Asia and Japan, particularly through high savings ratios. The USA, on the other hand, has made a very small net contribution to the growth in global sustainability

Topics: GE Environmental Sciences, HB Economic Theory, HF Commerce
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 1999
DOI identifier: 10.1016/S0921-8009(98)00030-5
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lse.ac.uk:7604
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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