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Sustainability

By Liu2Web · 01/02/2009

"In light of the current credit crunch, what is the future of sustainable development and what role does government policy have to play?" (no more than 400 words).

Environmental economist Brundtland (1987) described sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". Although there are many sustainability issues, in recent years this definition was mostly applied to environmental concerns. However, in light of the current liquidity problems, concern about economic sustainability has come to afore. The question now is to determine how much emphasis should be placed on the two forms of sustainability and government response given tighter resources.

One view might be that economic sustainability takes precedent as our present lifestyle or "needs" is under threat therefore of greater concern than the needs of future generations that are yet to occur. The credit crisis has lead to the contraction of the manufacturing sector as indicated by the number of factory lay offs and plummeting oil price. Thus the CO2 emissions have been reduced. Also, if we were to plot the recycling rates among the borough of London, it is likely that we would see that poorer councils will tend to show lower figures. The reason can be attributed to Herzburg’s Hygiene Factors (1968). People are more likely to be concerned with the environment once the basic necessities such as income, shelter etc are assured.

The opposing view is that greater emphasis should be placed on environment sustainability as it is our moral duty. Businesses may adopt less ethical processes in a bid to reduce their expenditures. Government can intervene through policies. However, taken out of context, policies can be inadequate or worse yet, exacerbate the problem. For example the European Emissions Trading Scheme was implemented before the credit crisis. As a result the targets were set too low and firms sold the permits to raise cash thus depressing its value.

In my opinion, a cohesive policy can be constructed to address the multifaceted concept of sustainable development. It can also be argued that ’green’ innovations can stimulate job creation. Policy can support projects that will be environmentally sustainable whilst having long term financial incentives. For example, a renewable energy power plant will have initial high start up costs but low over head costs as the price for renewable fuel is free. Presently the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory reform (DBERR) have been set up but have yet to set a concrete agenda.

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