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Department of Economics, WU (Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien) Growth and Employment in Europe: Sustainability and Competitiveness, Department of Economics, WU (Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien)

No 6:
Delinking Economic Growth from Environmental Degradation? A Literature Survey on the Environmental Kuznets Curve Hypothesis

Sigrid Stagl ()

Abstract: The effect of economic growth on environmental quality is much under dispute. A number of empirical studies have made the claim that there exist in some income ranges a positive relation between per capita income and some measure of environmental quality. According to this inverted U-shaped pattern of different pollutants relative to per capita incomes in different countries which is also called the ”Environmental Kuznets Curve” (EKC), environmental pressure increases up to a point as income goes up; after the turning point environmental quality improves as income keeps rising. Possible explanations for this pattern are seen in the progression of economic development, from clean agrarian economies to polluting industrial economies to clean service economies. This trend is enhanced through the transfer of cleaner technology from high-income countries to low-income countries and the tendency of people with higher income having a higher preference for environmental quality. Since this relationship is so fundamental to questions of economic development and sustainability it has provoked a vast load of research over the last seven years supporting but also heavily criticizing the results and conclusions. This paper gives an overview of the literature published on this topic to date and the conceptual, methodological and fundamental critique put forward.

Keywords: economic growth; environmental protection; Environmental Kuznets Curve; (follow links to similar papers)

September 1999

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