Transitions to a Sustainable Future
The Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei series on Economics, the Environment and Sustainable Development
Edited by Valentina Bosetti, Reyer Gerlagh and Stefan P. Schleicher
Chapter 2: Designing Sustainability Policy
1 Barbara K. Buchner 2.1 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY IN THE EU How can we meet today’s needs without diminishing the capacity of future generations to meet their own? This question characterises the challenge of sustainability, which during the last decades has become a more and more important guideline for economic, social and environmental processes. Indeed, the concept of sustainable development was from its very beginning meant to be relevant for a comprehensive philosophy including – apart from environmental aspects – a variety of social issues. The pioneering work of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED, 1987) refers to sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. With this famous report, Our Common Future, the Brundtland Commission placed sustainability on international political and scientific agendas. Notwithstanding this broad definition, many political discussions initially have adopted a relatively narrow focus, concentrating mainly on areas where sustainability can be defined directly or exclusively in terms of specific environmental problem (see for example discussion in Pezzey, 2001). However, in order more comprehensively to implement the concept and to lead the world towards a sustainable path, the wider notion of sustainability needs to be taken into account, acknowledging thus the original intention of the WCED pioneers. For more than a decade, the European Union (EU) has taken a leading role in the promotion of sustainable development (SD), as is emphasised by various key political decisions starting from the Treaty of...
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