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Sustainability and Environmental Valuation

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For economists, sustainability and environmental valuation are connected in two ways. At the micro level, proper environmental valuation is required if projects are to be approved and rejected consistently with sustainability requirements. This is cost benefit analysis. At the macro level, many take the view that sustainability requires that national income measurement be modified so as to account for environmental damage. Such natural resource accounting is possible only if environmental damage is valued for incorporation into the economic accounts. The paper reviews the techniques that economists have developed for environmental valuation. In regard to cost benefit analysis and sustainability, it is noted that the technique on which most interest focuses, the Contingent Valuation Method, involves the extension of the domain of consumer demand analysis to include the natural environment. Contributions questioning the appropriateness of this are reviewed, and it is argued that they merit more attention from economists than they have received to date. In regard to natural resource accounting, it is argued that while there is little prospect of it achieving what its proponents claim for it, the modelling that it necessarily implies has the potential to both clarify valuation issues and play an important role in informing the policy process.

Keywords: contingent valuation; environment; natural resource accounting; optimization; sustainability; valuation

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 1993

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2014) of 1.056.
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