Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics
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Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics

Edited by Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh

This major reference book comprises specially commissioned surveys in environmental and resource economics written by an international team of experts. Authoritative yet accessible, each entry provides a state-of-the-art summary of key areas that will be invaluable to researchers, practitioners and advanced students.
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Chapter 50: Development, Poverty and Environment

E.B. Barbier


Edward B. Barbier’ 1. Introduction Since the 1980s, substantial progress has been made in economic research of natural resource degradation problems in developing countries. Global support for such research was strongly endorsed by the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992. For example, in its Agenda 21 pre-conference declaration, the UNCED Secretariat made the following statement: In the last two decades, there has been some progress through conventional economic policy applied in parallel with environmental policy. It is now clear that this is not enough, and that environment and development must be taken into account at each step of decision making and action in an integrated manner. (UNCED, 1992) As a result, post-Rio a ‘new’ subdiscipline of economics of environment and development has quickly emerged, and there is an even more rapidly expanding demand for policy analysis that applies environmental economics to development problems.2 An overriding feature of recent economic analysis in environment and development has been to treat the environment as an ‘asset’, or form of ‘natural capital’, that must be managed to ‘sustain’ economic development (Barbier, 1994). The crucial decision is how much economic rent can be gained through exploiting stocks of natural capital and reinvesting in other economic assets, that is, reproducible (man-made) capital, foreign assets and human resources, in order to meet both current and future economic opportunities. This decision is of paramount importance to many low-income developing countries, as they are usually characterized as having an...

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