Int. J. of Sustainable Development   »   2003 Vol.6, No.1



Title: Discounting and sustainability: towards reconciliation


Author: Richard B. Howarth


Address: Environmental Studies Program, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA


Abstract: This paper examines the well-known tension between discounting and sustainability in the long-term management of environmental resources. The paper describes a rights-based ethical framework in which present decision-makers hold a moral duty to ensure that life opportunities are sustained from generation to generation. Maintaining opportunities requires that natural resources must be either conserved or replaced with proven substitutes that provide equivalent services. In this framework, discounting procedures are useful in characterising decision-makers' preferences concerning tradeoffs between costs and benefits that arise at different points in time. Such preferences, however, are trumped by duties to posterity in cases where discounting favours the uncompensated depletion of resource stocks.


Keywords: discounting; intergenerational fairness; sustainability.


DOI: 10.1504/IJSD.2003.004220


Int. J. of Sustainable Development, 2003 Vol.6, No.1, pp.87 - 97


Available online: 05 Apr 2004



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