National Academies Press: OpenBook

Sustainability and the U.S. EPA (2011)

Chapter: Appendix D: Sustainability in the OECD

« Previous: Appendix C: Glossary
Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: Sustainability in the OECD." National Research Council. 2011. Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13152.
×

Appendix D


Sustainability in the OECD

For the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which comprises the world’s developed countries, the basis of sustainable development is the successful integration of social, environmental, and economic policy (OECD 2001). In that spirit, the OECD plays several important roles in creating and sharing ideas and information regarding sustainable development and analyzing environmental and sustainability trends.1

The OECD provides an interpretation of key concepts in the sustainable-development literature, including interpretations that are consistent with mainstream environmental economics (Ruffing 2010). In 2001, the OECD secretary general issued a major report on sustainable development (OECD 2001). Among other things, the report argued for mainstreaming the concept of sustainable development into standard economic discourse and into the normal practice of governmental policies. The report took a capital-based approach to sustainable development—distinguishing between anthropogenic-made capital, natural capital, human capital and social capital—arguing that sustainability requires that the sum of these different types of capital on a per capita basis not decline over time. The report also acknowledges that the degradation of capital that has no substitute would lead to an irreversible loss for future generations (Atkinson et al. 1997, Neumayer 1999) and thus would require the maintenance of critical stocks of natural capital at a safe minimum level, an approach known as “strong sustainability.” Similarly, the OECD Environmental Strategy (OECD 2001), which was adopted by the OECD environment ministers in 2001, interpreted a key sustainability concept by articulating four principles for the environmental pillar of

____________

1 For more details see http://www.oecd.org/topic/0,3373,en_2649_37425_1_1_1_1_37425,00.html.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: Sustainability in the OECD." National Research Council. 2011. Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13152.
×

sustainability, namely, regeneration, substitutability, assimilation, and avoiding irreversibility.2

The OECD also publishes reports on various topics related to sustainability and fosters dialogue and discussion on sustainable development among member countries, thus providing an opportunity for sharing and learning. For example, the OECD has prepared reports on institutionalizing sustainable development (OECD 2007), good practices in the National Sustainable Development Strategies of OECD countries (OECD 2006), and guidance on preparing sustainability assessments (OECD 2010). The Organization has been working on a “green growth” strategy for consideration of OECD ministers; the strategy would maximize synergies between ensuring environmental integrity and improving economic efficiency. In 1998, the OECD also established a roundtable on sustainable development, where environment and development ministers engage in informal dialogue on the international policy agenda of sustainable development.3 The OECD also publishes regular environmental performance reviews of member countries.

The OECD prepares a variety of reports on global sustainability conditions. In its 2008 report, the OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030, the OECD made clear that many of the conditions that led to Earth Summit in 1992 still pose serious threats (OECD 2008). The report projected environmental and economic trends from the present to 2030 and recognized progress in addressing air quality, water quality, forestry, and waste management in developed countries. It also described “climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, and health impacts of pollution and hazardous chemicals” as especially serious problems. Without new policy actions on these issues, the OECD said that “within the next few decades we risk irreversibly altering the environmental basis for sustained economic prosperity.” The report also identified a suite of “achievable and affordable” policies for addressing these issues.

____________

2 OECD (2001) defined these terms as follows:

Regeneration: “Renewable resources shall be used efficiently and their use shall not be permitted to exceed their long-term rates of natural regeneration.”

Substitutability: “Non-renewable resources shall be used efficiently and their use limited to levels which can be offset by substitution by renewable resources or other forms of capital.”

Assimilation: “Releases of hazardous or polluting substances to the environment shall not exceed its assimilative capacity; concentrations shall be kept below established critical levels necessary for the protection of human health and the environment.”

Avoiding Irreversibility: “Irreversible adverse effects of human activities on ecosystems and on biogeochemical and hydrological cycles shall be avoided.”

3 For more details, see http://www.oecd.org/pages/0,3417,en_39315735_39312980_1_1_1_1_1,00.html.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: Sustainability in the OECD." National Research Council. 2011. Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13152.
×

REFERENCES

Atkinson, G., W.R. Dubourg, K. Hamilton, M. Munasinghe, D.W. Pearce, and C.E.F. Young. 1997. Measuring Sustainable Development: Macroeconomics and Environment. Cheltenham: E. Elgar.

Neumayer, E. 1999. Weak Versus Strong Sustainability: Exploring the Limits of Two Opposing Paradigms. Cheltenham: E. Elgar.

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2001. OECD Environmental Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, May 21, 2001 [online]. Available: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/40/1863539.pdf [accessed Apr. 18, 2011].

OECD. 2006. Good Practices in the National Development Sustainable Development Strategies of OECD Countries. Paris: OECD [online]. Available: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/58/42/36655769.pdf [accessed May 4, 2011].

OECD. 2007. Institutionalising Sustainable Development. Paris: OECD.

OECD. 2008. OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030. Paris: OECD.

OECD. 2010. Guidance on Sustainability Impact Assessment. Paris: OECD.

Ruffing, K.G. 2010. The role of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in environmental policy making. Rev. Environ. Econ. Policy 4(2):199-220.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: Sustainability in the OECD." National Research Council. 2011. Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13152.
×

This page intentionally left blank.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: Sustainability in the OECD." National Research Council. 2011. Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13152.
×
Page 139
Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: Sustainability in the OECD." National Research Council. 2011. Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13152.
×
Page 140
Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: Sustainability in the OECD." National Research Council. 2011. Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13152.
×
Page 141
Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: Sustainability in the OECD." National Research Council. 2011. Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13152.
×
Page 142
Next: Appendix E: Sustainability Indicators »
Sustainability and the U.S. EPA Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $37.00 Buy Ebook | $29.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Sustainability is based on a simple and long-recognized factual premise: Everything that humans require for their survival and well-being depends, directly or indirectly, on the natural environment. The environment provides the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.

Recognizing the importance of sustainability to its work, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to create programs and applications in a variety of areas to better incorporate sustainability into decision-making at the agency. To further strengthen the scientific basis for sustainability as it applies to human health and environmental protection, the EPA asked the National Research Council (NRC) to provide a framework for incorporating sustainability into the EPA's principles and decision-making.

This framework, Sustainability and the U.S. EPA, provides recommendations for a sustainability approach that both incorporates and goes beyond an approach based on assessing and managing the risks posed by pollutants that has largely shaped environmental policy since the 1980s. Although risk-based methods have led to many successes and remain important tools, the report concludes that they are not adequate to address many of the complex problems that put current and future generations at risk, such as depletion of natural resources, climate change, and loss of biodiversity. Moreover, sophisticated tools are increasingly available to address cross-cutting, complex, and challenging issues that go beyond risk management.

The report recommends that EPA formally adopt as its sustainability paradigm the widely used "three pillars" approach, which means considering the environmental, social, and economic impacts of an action or decision. Health should be expressly included in the "social" pillar. EPA should also articulate its vision for sustainability and develop a set of sustainability principles that would underlie all agency policies and programs.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!