Natural Capital, Resources and Sustainability in historical perspective

Simultánea II. Sala Oteiza

Miércoles 2/09/2020

Henry Willebald (U. República)

Iñaki Iriarte (UNIZAR)

Cristian Ducoing (Lund, Sweden)

Over the past quarter-century, Genuine Savings (GS) –or Adjusted Net Savings (ANS)– has emerged as an important indicator of Sustainable Development. It is based on the concept of wealth accounting (Hamilton & Hepburn, 2014) and represents a measure of how the country’s total capital stock (physical, natural, social, institutional and human) changes year-on-year. Following the pioneering studies of Pearce & Atkinson (1993) and Kirk Hamilton (1994), the World Bank has published estimates of GS from the mid-1990s to the present (World Bank, 1995, 1997, 2015). Hamilton & Clemens (1999) and World Bank (2006, 2011, 2018) illustrate the nature of these estimates for almost all countries in the world and show how a negative GS indicator can be interpreted as a signal of unsustainable development. Current World Bank data to support the calculation of GS at the country level stretches back to the 1970s, and provides empirical evidence of the level of sustainable/unsustainable economic development throughout the world. However, the social and economic development is, by definition, a long-run process where path-dependence, persistence and multiple equilibriums interact in the construction of “the future”. What can we learn from history about the sustainable development? We propose a session to discuss on this subject to offer novel views about the economic history of regions and countries and contribute in the current debate about development policies.

Therefore, we propose analysing the sustainable development of different economies in historical perspective focusing on empirical approaches on the topic. Based on the notion of GS as a framework we expect to receive methodological and empirical works in diverse stages of research (initial and advanced papers) which consider different components of the estimation. GS adds up the value of year-on-year changes in each individual element of capital stock and we will look for long-run estimates (from the 19th century to nowadays) offering information about fixed capital formation, natural resource use and educational investment, as well as the respective shadow prices to reflect the marginal  value  product  of  each  stock  in  terms  of  its  contribution  to  welfare. Changes in human capital can be approximated using expenditures on  education,  as  a  rate  of  return  on  time  spent  in education, or as a measure of discounted lifetime earnings by skill level. The effects of technological change, resource price appreciation (capital gains/losses) for resource exporters and importers, and population change can also be incorporated into the GS indicator and we will welcome efforts in this sense. Changes in the stock of certain pollutants (such as CO2) –valued using marginal damage costs– can also be presented in the estimates of the index. We encourage particularly contributions in this matter because we pretend to open the possibility of discussing the role of economic history in climate change, a main topic in the sustainability debate (Blum, Ducoing, & McLaughlin, 2017; Greasley et al., 2014; Kunnas et al., 2014).

Studying the last two hundred years through the lens of natural resources, sustainability and alternative measures of development enables us to make a broader contribution to the understanding of the economic history of the period and to shed light on the prediction of the future well-being. Along this period interacted stages of increasing world integration (as the First Globalization era) with other of progressive enclosing (the interwar period), deep dislocations of the international economy (with both World Wars) and periods of sustained growth in the world core with persistent divergence in the periphery. Our aim is to identify different stylized facts of the international economy to contribute in the construction of a research agenda on the matter and to enhance welfare measures in the long run.

Comunicaciones aceptadas

DUCOING, Christian (Lunds Universitet, Sweden), MCLAUGHLIN, Eoin (University College of Cork, Ireland); OXLEY, Les (University of Waikato, New Zealand), Weak sustainability trends between USA and Latin America. 1870 – 2018.

IRIARTE, Iñaki (Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain), Genuine Saving in Spain in the long run (1860-2010) a first approach.

LABAT, Juan (Universidad Carlos III, Spain); ROMÁN, Carolina (Universidad de la República, Uruguay); WILLEBALD, Henry (Universidad de la República, Uruguay), Genuine savings and sustainability in a peripheral economy. Uruguay in the long run, 1870-2018

LABAT, Juan (Universidad Carlos III, Spain), Environmental Pollutants in truncated industralization economies. South American Southern Cone in the 20th century.

SANDONATO, S.; WILLEBALD, Henry (Universidad de la República, Uruguay), Natural capital as an endogenous process. The case of Uruguay, 1870-2014.