Global Ecological Footprint and the Sustainable Development Goals

Dasgupta, P., Dasgupta, A., and Barrett, S. (2021) “Global Ecological Footprint and the Sustainable Development Goals“, forthcoming in Environmental & Resource Economics, Special Issue in memory of Karl Göran Mäler.

The Anthropocene can be read as being the era when the demand humanity makes on the biosphere’s goods and services humanity’s ‘ecological footprint’ vastly exceeds its ability to supply it on a sustainable basis. We call the gap between demand and sustainable supply the Impact Inequality. Because the gap is met by a diminution of the biosphere the inequality is increasing . We adapt Ehrlich and Holdren (1971) to decompose humanity’s ecological footprint into world population, per capita global GDP, and the efficiency with which the biosphere’s goods and services are converted into global GDP. We then deploy estimates of the Impact Inequality, world output and its growth rates in recent years, and the rate at which the accounting value of natural capital
has declined to study two questions: (i) At what rate must efficiency rise if the UN’s
Sustainable Development Goals for year 2030 are to be sustainable; (ii) What would a
sustainable figure for world population be if per capita global GDP is to be maintained at
an acceptably high level?

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