We first present an overview of different conceptual views of the relationship between the economy and the environment, and on the ‘sustainability’ of the interaction between them, and how this may be measured. We then discuss the components of the ‘Energy Trilemma’; energy security, decarbonization, and energy access and affordability, before examining the policies required for advancing a green, low-carbon economy – including lessons from and priority research areas surrounding EU climate policy. Issues relating to the sciencepolicy ‘interface’ are then presented, before priorities for research on energy, the environment and sustainability are summarized.
The intertwined topics of energy, environment and sustainability have, perhaps, more than other topics, been treated from a variety of economic perspectives, and in an interdisciplinary way that is outside economics altogether. The structure of this chapter is as follows. Section 7.2 first outlines the different schools of economic thought that influence the way in which the economy, natural resources and the environment are conceptualized and are seen to influence each other. Section 7.3 then explores how these economic approaches have been applied to fashion the core concepts in contemporary environmental and development discourse, of sustainable development, and the distinct but related idea of sustainability. This then leads to considerations of principles of environmental sustainability and, more broadly, of the many different measures that have been applied to assess progress or otherwise towards sustainable development. Section 7.4 focuses on the issues and future requirements concerning the energy system and climate change mitigation, particularly through the lens of the ‘energy trilemma’. Section 7.5 then discusses the policies required to achieve these requirements, and for a broader ‘green economy’. Section 7.6 assesses the interface and interaction between scientific analysis of the issues, and practitioners, policy and policy-makers. Section 7.7 concludes, and summarizes priorities for research in the field.
Economic Approaches to the Environment
In any general overview of economic literature it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the economics of natural resources and the environment is usually regarded as a relatively unimportant topic.