Transitions to a Sustainable Future
Edited by Valentina Bosetti, Reyer Gerlagh and Stefan P. Schleicher
Chapter 3: An American View of Sustainability
Ray Kopp 3.1 INTRODUCTION Does the concept of sustainable development as originally defined by Brundtland et al. (WCED, 1987) and embodied in the EU Sustainable Development Strategy (Council of the European Union, 2006) play a central role in American public policy?1 How does the American view of sustainability compare to the European view? Do Americans use the concept as a guiding principle in the development of public policy beyond issues of the environment and natural resources? Unfortunately, I cannot hope to provide definitive answers to these questions in this brief chapter, but I will share my opinions and let the reader decide whether they contain the elements of credible answers. If opinions are to be the substance of this chapter, then readers should be afforded the means to assess the author. I am an economist and I have spent my entire research career (30-plus years) focused on environment and natural resource issues and have done so at a single research institution whose sole mission is to improve policy-making with respect to those issues. That American institution, Resources for the Future (RFF), was created in 1952, some 35 years before the introduction of the sustainability concept credited to Brundtland. Over the past five decades, RFF researchers have struggled with the very same issues now associated with sustainable development. My opinions are based on my research, those of my colleagues at RFF, and the wider community of scholars working in both applied welfare economics and environmental and resource economics. I have...
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