Policy Instruments and Market Mechanisms
Introduction: the political economy of sustainable development
Sustainable development, defined as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ is at the heart of global efforts to respond to the dual imperatives of environmental protection and economic development (UN 1987: 16). At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, or the Rio de Janeiro ‘Earth’ Summit) sustainable development was formally adopted as the intergovernmental policy response to solving global environmental problems, embodied in the document Agenda 21 (UN 1993). Sustainable development was an attempt to acknowledge the ‘limits to growth’ first argued by the Club of Rome in 1972, while at the same time reconciling the need for economic development with environmental protection (Jacobs 2012: 4–5). This reconciling approach was taken one step further post-Rio, with the emergence of the ‘triple bottom line’ business philosophy, which linked the ideas of people, planet and profit, with society, the environment and the economy, and became a new form of business activity reporting, that took more than profit (single bottom line accounting) into consideration (Hindle 2008: 193–4).