Tag Archives: Environmental Economics

Live Research Bulletin: How are private institutions helping to make the environment count in Latin America? (Part II)

Throughout the months of November and December, Development Roast will share with you a series of INESAD Live Research updates on how different institutions and individuals are rallying behind the call for green growth by trying to integrate the environment in national and sectoral accounting calculations. In Part I we discussed how the governments of Latin America are experimenting with green accounting. Today, we complete the two part live research update by taking a look at other efforts making the environment count in the region.

Where there is a dearth of government resources to compile green accounts (see our previous discussion of theory behind the techniques involved), international organizations, universities, and independent research institutions often fill the gap. Some environmental accounting studies are limited to calculating environmental costs of specific industries like logging in the Brazilian Amazon and mining in Chile. Others, like the Institute of Advanced Development Studies (INESAD)’s Bolivia’s green national accounts, take on the entire economy. Read More »

Live Research Bulletin: How Asian Countries Are Protecting Their Environments and Economies

Development RoastBy Carolynn Look and Garance Marcotte

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” -Chinese Proverb

Some of the greatest ancient civilizations used to roam the lands that are now India, China, and Thailand. They were known for practices that showed a deep-rooted respect for the world around them, both in their daily lives and in their spirituality. Still today, the harmony between man and nature is seen in many parts of Asia, from Mongolian nomads living in yurts, to Tibetan monks leading minimalistic lives and seeking spiritual balance with everything around them. However, in many other places, this relationship has changed. Rapid urbanization is changing the continent’s landscape as rural-urban income disparities increase, water bodies are becoming severely damaged and pollution is at some of the world’s worst levels. Read More »

Graphics: Why agriculture needs to be greener

Agriculture has one of the highest potentials for reducing carbon emissions and helping vulnerable people adapt to climate change. As it stands, industrial agriculture that uses toxic chemical inputs of fertilizer and pesticides for growing highly destructive monocultures and antibiotics for animals that are fed unnatural foods in terribly confined conditions is taking a huge toll on the planet. Agriculture is one of the world’s biggest causes of deforestation and, thus, loss of biodiversity and vastly increased rate of species extinction; currently species are disappearing at 50-500 times faster than background fossil record rates. If we continue at current rates, another 10bn ha of natural ecosystems would be converted to agriculture by 2050. This type of land use change is the single most largest contributor to emissions in developing countries, making agriculture responsible for 18 percent of all GHG emissions in the world (74 percent of which are in Developing Countries) – which is larger than the whole of the transport sector. Intensive farming practices have added to soil degradation so much so that 17 percent of Earth´s vegetated land in now classified as degraded. In addition, agriculture consumed 90 percent of global freshwater during the last century and because renewable freshwater stocks are very low, demand from the projected additional 2.3bn people by 2050  will need to be met from existing irrigated land. This is particularly a problem since 64 percent of the world´s population is projected to live in water-stressed areas by 2025. While additional pressures on agriculture are coming from new projects such as carbon sequestration and the rising global demand for biofuel crops. Read More »

Live Research Bulletin: How are governments greening national accounts in Latin America? (Part I)

Development RoastBy Adam Nelson and Allan Spessoto

“…Gross national product … counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage….Yet [it] does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play.”

Robert F. Kennedy Address, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, March 18, 1968

It has long been established that the way that national wealth is calculated is a poor measure of development. Gross and Net Domestic Products (GDP and NDP) positively count only the production of material goods, including weapons, cigarettes and handcuffs, but do not count some of the positive aspects of society like poetry, relationships, and music. Nor does it deduct ‘progress’ when the health of the environment, human beings or animals is negatively affected at the hand of pollution and toxic industries. Or give credit to ecosystems for the services they provide to nourish people and planet, like the rainforest’s capacity to purify air, stabilize soils and nutrients, curb global warming, and provide food, shelter, and cultural sustenance to millions of people. For many, such deductions and credits would mean having to put a dollar value on things in life that are just too sacred to be commoditized. For others, such a value is the first step to making them visible, and thus making them count, when they were taken for granted before. Throughout the month of November, Development Roast has shared with you a series of INESAD Live Research updates on how whole nations are rallying behind the call for green growth by trying to integrate the environment in national accounting calculations. Today, we start with the first of a two-part update on Latin America.

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Graphics: Sustainability and Businesses – How Reliable are Corporate Social Responsibility reports?

 As part of INESAD’s November Environmental Sustainability month, today’s Monday Graphics series is investigating sustainability in businesses.

This Global Sustainability Scorecard was compiled by McDonalds about its business’s sustainability. Many companies produce graphics like these to make consumers aware of their efforts to protect or contribute to the environment and society (for other big name examples, see the graphics put together by Apple and H&M). While analyzing these, consumers should keep the overall picture in mind: is going green in your office really a mark of sustainability? Are promises that businesses make about one area of their production chain, such as McDonald’s does here about fishing, neglecting their unsustainable habits in other areas? Industrial beef production, for instance, remains a huge problem and causes diseases and deforestation, and McDonald’s happens to be one of its main proponents. Are the businesses really helping the environment, or are they only making their impact ‘less bad’? Read our recently published article on the topic ‘How ‘sustainable’ is sustainable development in the corporate world?’  Read More »

Live Research Bulletin: The opposite poles of environmental accounts of Canada and the United States

“I’m not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet.” Republican Presidential Candidate Governor Mitt Romney, an interview on “Meet the Press”, September, 2012.

This month, Development Roast has published several posts offering insights into different principles and practices of green accounting. After our overview of European experience with environmental accounting, we now turn to North America. Excluding Mexico (which will be discussed next week in the Latin America update), the two remaining countries show us quite different experiences with greening the national accounts. While Canada has shown to be an example of comprehensive implementation, the United States suspended its national project for environmental accounting in 1995 and hasn’t made large attempts to develop these accounts since. Read More »

Live Research Bulletin: Accounting for the Environment in Europe—Progress and Lessons.

Throughout November Development Roast is bringing you live research updates on an INESAD working paper currently in progress that is investigating national environmental accounting efforts around the world. Today, Carolynn Looks sums up the European experience.

A kilo of tomatoes in Spain typically costs around €1.99. This price includes the efforts of the farmer who grew the tomatoes, transportation costs, and the work of the retailer. What it does not include is the cost of emissions as these tomatoes make their way across Europe, or of water usage, deforestation and loss of biodiversity as monoculture plantations spread across Spain’s rural landscapes. Because of an increasing recognition of such detrimental effects, economists and governments have started to realize that air, water and forests are not in fact free and have asked themselves: What is the price of an old Cypress tree? How much does a clean river cost? How do you place a value on a gulp of unpolluted air, or on an entire habitat?

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Five Types of Rainforest Ecosystem Services that Nourish People and Planet

According to Conservation International‘s 2009 book, The Wealth of Nature, ecosystems support and regulate all natural processes on earth, while contributing to cultural, social, and economic benefits to human communities. These have become known as ecosystem services and, according to the Rainforest Conservation Fund (RCF), they would cost trillions of dollars per year if human beings had to provide them for themselves. Here are just five types of many of the ecosystem services provided to people and planet by the world’s rainforests: Read More »

Can economics protect the environment?

When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money,” Native American saying

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” Brundtland Report

It is undeniable that our current way of life is unsustainable; If every country consumed resources and created waste at the same per person rate as the United States, we would need three to five planets to survive. Part of the problem lies in the fact that economics—the major discipline advising global and national policy—has failed to include the environment in its calculations. To rectify this problem, different methods have been proposed, so as to make predictions and come up with better ways of managing the planet’s resources without compromising the future.

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Commercializing Nature?

The Bolivian government has taken a strong stance against the international REDD+ mechanism, mainly because it reduces forests to a simple commodity to be traded in international carbon emissions markets. This would not only imply trading an invisible product (CO2 emissions), but – even more complicated – trading the lack of the invisible product (reduced CO2 emissions). Keeping track of the lack of this invisible product is so obviously difficult that both transaction costs and corruption associated with an international REDD+ mechanism would likely be enormous, thus leaving few benefits for the forest, the forest communities, and the global climate. Read More »


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