Cents and Sustainability : Securing Our Common Future by Decoupling Economic Growth from Environmental Pressures book cover
1st Edition

Cents and Sustainability
Securing Our Common Future by Decoupling Economic Growth from Environmental Pressures

ISBN 9781844075294
Published July 30, 2010 by Routledge
464 Pages

USD $120.00

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Book Description

Cents and Sustainability is a clear-sighted response to the 1987 call by Dr Gro Brundtland in Our Common Future to achieve a new era of economic growth that is 'forceful and at the same time socially and environmentally sustainable'. The Brundtland Report argued that not only was it achievable, but that it was an urgent imperative in order to achieve a transition to sustainable development while significantly reducing poverty and driving 'clean and green' investment. With some still arguing for significantly slowing economic growth in order to reduce pressures on the environment, this new book, Cents and Sustainability, shows that it is possible to reconcile the need for economic growth and environmental sustainability through a strategy to decouple economic growth from environmental pressures, combined with a renewed commitment to achieve significant environmental restoration and poverty reduction. Beginning with a brief overview of some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time, the book then explains 'decoupling theory', overviews a number of factors that can undermine and even block efforts to decouple in both developed and developing countries, and then discusses a number of key considerations to assist the development of national 'decoupling strategies'. The book then focuses on presenting evidence to support greater action, not just on climate change, but also on decoupling economic growth from the loss of biodiversity and the deterioration of natural systems, freshwater extraction, waste production, and air pollution. In the lead up to the 2012 United Nations Earth Summit and beyond, Cents and Sustainability will be a crucial guide to inform and assist nations to develop strategies to significantly reduce environmental pressures, strengthen their economy, create jobs and reduce poverty. 'I commend the team from The Natural Edge Project and their partners for undertaking to develop a response to 'Our Common Future' to mark its 20th anniversary.' Dr Gro Brundtland. Sequel to The Natural Advantage of Nations Published with The Natural Edge Project

Table of Contents

Forewords by Dr Gro Brundtland, Dr Kenneth G. Ruffing and Dr Rajendra Pachauri 1. Securing 'Our Common Future' 2. Achieving Economic Growth and Reducing Environmental Pressures 3. Factors that can Undermine or Even Block Efforts to Achieve Decoupling 4. Factors that affect Poorer Nations' Ability to Achieve Decoupling 5. Informing and Developing National Strategies for Decoupling 6. Responding to the Complexity of Climate Change 7. Decoupling Economic Growth from Greenhouse Gas Emissions 8. Decoupling Economic Growth from Loss of Biodiversity and the Deterioration of Natural Systems 9. Decoupling Economic Growth from Freshwater Extraction 10. Decoupling Economic Growth from Waste Production 11. Decoupling Economic Growth from Air Pollution 12. Reducing Air Pollution through Public Interest Litigation: The Delhi Pollution Case

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Dr Michael H. Smith, a Research Fellow at the Australian National University's Fenner School of Environment and Society, is a co-founder of The Natural Edge Project (TNEP) and was the Research Director from 2002-2010, hosted in-kind by ANU. Working with the TNEP team Michael co-authored a number of books, online education programs and industry sustainability action plans focusing on how to operationalise sustainable development from an ecological modernisation perspective. 

Karlson 'Charlie' Hargroves, a co-founder and the Director of The Natural Edge Project (TNEP) is hosted in-kind as a Research Fellow at Griffith University. Together with the TNEP team, he has developed a number of books, journal papers, online education programs, industry action plans, and community capacity building programs, working leaders in the field across the world.

Cheryl Desha is the Deputy Director of The Natural Edge Project (TNEP), and a Lecturer in the School of Engineering at Griffith University, and has worked in an international consulting engineering firm for four years, in addition to government secondments. In 2005 Cheryl was selected as the Engineers Australia Young Professional Engineer of the Year. Working with the TNEP team Cheryl has co-authored a number of books, journal papers, online education programs, industry action plans, and community capacity building programs.


'Cents and Sustainability provides an excellent overview of the major environmental issues of the day, importantly indicating their interrelationships...The book is aimed at policymakers and I hope it succeeds in engendering a positive attitude towards environmental reform. It will also be an invaluable teaching resource.' – The Geographical Journal

"Hunter Lovins gave a very informative and inspirational presentation. Her perspectives and rationale behind Natural capitalism were enlightening and demonstrated practical ways where everyone, no matter how concerned they are about profits, production and progress, can make a contribution to business success without selling out the environment."Monique Kraemer, Engineers Australia Queensland Division

"The historical assumption that that green investment comes as a cost to the economy needs to be challenged. Destroying the natural resource base upon which economies thrive, and life depends, has never made for good economics. As the world struggles to recover from one of the worst economic crises in living memory we have an opportunity to promote inclusive and sustainable development based upon green growth, energy efficiency and the sustainable use of natural resources. Cents and Sustainability offers a coherent argument and a collection of evidence to show how prudent policies, market innovation and sheer common sense can lead to green development solutions that cost less, destroy less and benefit all. This message of this book is clear. Its time to act!" Dr Noeleen Hezyer, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, and UN Executive Secretary of the Economic and and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

"In 1987, Our Common Future offered the prospect of decoupling as the resolution between environment and development. Since then the debate has been dismal and confused. Is significant, profitable decoupling somehow impossible, as traditional economists might think, or not permissable to speak of as an incomplete answer, as some on the further green edge seem to believe. Neither. Cents and Sustainability offers abundant evidence that, supporting by appropriate policies and institutions, the technical ability exists for us to do much, much more to decouple human development from environmental degradation. The only negative is that this empowering work was not with us in the 1990s." –  Professor Stephen Dovers, Director, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University.

"Since the publication of the Brundtland Report, [Our Common Future] problems of unsustainable economic growth have become even more severe. Unless standards of living can be increased while sharply reducing environmental pressures, the world is headed for disaster. Fortunately, such decoupling is not only possible, as this book shows, it is almost always the most economic approach. Bad environmental policies are usually bad economic policies as well."Professor Robert Repetto, UN Foundation Fellow, Professor for the Economics of Sustainable Development, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

"In these dangerous times of hype and spin about environment "versus" the economy, it is refreshing to get an update on what has proved to be one of the most important books of the modern era: Our Common Future, and its message of sustainable development. Quite simply, we can not flourish without both economic growth to help the poor to have a more equitable share of the amenities of living, and environmental sustainability, to ensure the ecological underpinnings of our economy--and lives!--are secure over the generations. Of course there are always trade-offs, but it is false to assert it is an either/or situation--species or jobs, wealth or forests etc. We can do well by doing good, and in fact must if the world is to be both sustainable and just. Cents and Sustainability is an important road map to achieve these complementary goals."Professor Stephen H. Schneider, Stanford University, (Contributor to each IPCC Assessment), and Author of "Science as a Contact Sport"

"Cents and Sustainability helps move the debate beyond "growth versus the environment", focusing on the potential for dramatic increases in resource productivity. Now more than ever, realizing the vision of sustainable development is imperative to achieve a prosperous, just and ecologically viable common future." Professor Eban Goodstein, Director of the Bard Centre for Environmental Policy, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson New York, and author of The Trade-off Myth: Fact and Fiction about Jobs and the Environment.

"I commend the team from The Natural Edge Project and their partners for undertaking to develop a response to 'Our Common Future' to mark its 20th anniversary. The focus of this new book, 'Cents and Sustainability', is to bring together significant evidence from the last 20 years to demonstrate that environmental and social sustainability and economic growth need not be incompatible but rather can reinforce each other. The book will cover a range of efforts, studies, policies and mechanisms designed to show how effective and proven strategies of achieving social and environmental sustainability are already helping economic growth." –  Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland

"It gives me great pleasure to contribute this foreword to ‘Cents and Sustainability’ and support a response by our next generation to the seminal publication Our Common Future, following its recent 20th anniversary. The Natural Edge Project is to be commended for tackling this vitally important issue and highlighting where in the world already communities, regions and nations are creating solutions to this great challenge of our time."R. K. Pachauri, Chief of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), accepting the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IPCC

"The leitmotif of this book is how to decouple environmental pressures from economic growth while simultaneously making progress towards attaining the millennium development goals. It thus addresses a number of economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The book restates the case for reducing environmental pressures. Failure to do so will entail very high costs to ourselves and future generations; the technological means and the policy tools needed already exist and, in most cases, have been deployed in one country or another; finally, the costs of implementing a decoupling agenda are eminently affordable, amounting to only a few percentage points of future increases in GDP." –  Dr. Kenneth G. Ruffing, formerly Deputy Director and Chief Economist of the OECD Environment Directorate from 2000 to 2005

"It is not wise simply to hope that our decision makers will make the right choices, especially given the fact that there are still powerful vested interests who do not want to see a transition to sustainable development. In the end, it is up to each and every one of us to leave as positive a legacy as possible to future generations. Cents and Sustainability, with its inspiring world class success stories, our earlier 1987 report to the United Nations entitled Our Common Future, and free online education and training packages by The Natural Edge Project will help empower you to play your part in helping achieve a sustainable future."Jim MacNeill, O.C., Secretary General, World Commission on Environment and Development, and Chief Architect and lead author of Our Common Future (1987)

"The members of the Natural Edge Project are representatives of Australia’s next generation of decision-makers and thought leaders. The Purves Environmental Fund is therefore delighted to support the work of this committed and talented team. Cents and Sustainability takes on the critical issue of how we can improve human welfare while not exceeding the limits of the natural world we inhabit. To quote Ray Anderson, 'How to do well and do good at the same time is the challenge'. This book addresses that challenge. As with the Natural Edge’s previous publication, The Natural Advantage of Nations, Cents and Sustainability is a tremendous achievement and a timely and important contribution. I commend it as essential reading for anyone who is concerned with long-term sustainability and prosperity."Robert Purves, Chair, Purves Environmental Fund 

"By attending to the detail set out in this book, more jobs and, in the long run, more "economic" growth can be expected. A Global Green New Deal is possible. The way forward is to decouple economic growth from environmental damage. There is sense in putting aside some cents for the future."Professor Mike Young, Executive Director, The Environment Institute, The University of Adelaide, founding member of The Wentworth Group.

"Population growth and climate change, combined with our current approaches to doing business and managing water, are placing our livelihoods, our communities, and the environment at risk. Cents and Sustainability suggests concrete alternatives for managing both water and business in ways that will help sustain our communities long-term." Cheryl Davis – San Francisco Water Utility Commission, and International Water Association

"In the years since Our Common Future was published, we have learned much more about how to achieve sustainable development while decoupling economic growth from environmental pressure. In Massachusetts, USA, companies have utilized forward-thinking approaches to production that reduce the use of toxic chemicals before costly safety measures or, worse, pollution control or remediation measures are required. Between 1990-2005, Massachusetts companies reduced their use of toxic chemicals by 40 per cent and onsite releases of toxic chemicals by 91 per cent. This was achieved without harming profits -- rather economic and worker health and safety benefits have exceeded costs. This book, Cents and Sustainability, is a wonderful compilation of similar examples of how addressing environmental pressures can be achieved in ways that represent a win-win for businesses, the global economy and society." Pam Eliason, Senior Associate Director and Industry Research Program Manager of the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute

"Our Common Future was a wake-up. The publication showed the real possibilities for economic growth and development, outlining the advantages of basing such development on policies that upkeep the environmental resource base and showing how much could be gained by not depleting them, as has largely been the case in the past. The book Cents and Sustainability is a welcome reminder of what can and should be done to integrate economic growth and environmental sustainability. It also is serving notice, reminding us of what needs to be done to achieve the necessary scale of decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures to secure the resources to sustain coming generations." Professor Walter Leal (BSc, PhD, DSc, DL, DPhil, DLitt) Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development and Chairman, International Climate Change Information Programme (ICCIP), HAW Hamburg,Germany