Ecological Footprint Policy? Land Use as an Environmental Indicator

10 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2014

See all articles by Jeroen C. J. M. Van den Bergh

Jeroen C. J. M. Van den Bergh

Autonomous University of Barcelona - Faculty of Economics and Business Studies; Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, School of Business and Economics; Tinbergen Institute

Fabio Grazi

Centre International de Recherche sur l'Environnement et le Développement ; School for Advanced Studies in Venice (SSAV)

Date Written: February 2014

Abstract

This article argues that policies aimed at sustainability need to address the spatial dimensions of environmental problems and their solutions. In particular, spatial configurations of economic activities deserve attention, which means addressing land use, infrastructure, trade, and transport. Unfortunately, good theory and indicators to support the analysis and design of spatial‐environmental policies are not fully developed. One approach that has become very popular in the last decade is the ecological footprint (EF). It is both an environmental accounting tool and aggregate indicator, which is used by scientists, environmental organizations, and popular media. Despite criticisms of the EF method in the past, its popularity has only increased. In fact, an increasing number of publications with an application of the EF appear in scientific journals. We review the EF approach from indicator‐methodology and welfare angles and assess its policy relevance. Our conclusion is that it does not offer any meaningful information for public policy.

Keywords: biocapacity, environmental policy, industrial ecology, overshoot, spatial economics, sustainability

Suggested Citation

Van den Bergh, Jeroen C. J. M. and Grazi, Fabio, Ecological Footprint Policy? Land Use as an Environmental Indicator (February 2014). Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 18, Issue 1, pp. 10-19, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2396211 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12045

Jeroen C. J. M. Van den Bergh

Autonomous University of Barcelona - Faculty of Economics and Business Studies ( email )

Campus Bellaterra
Barcelona, 08193
Spain

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, School of Business and Economics ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081HV
Netherlands

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

Fabio Grazi

Centre International de Recherche sur l'Environnement et le Développement ( email )

45bis, avenue de la Belle Gabrielle
Nogent sur Marne CEDEX, 94736
France

School for Advanced Studies in Venice (SSAV) ( email )

Island of San Servolo
Venice, 30100
Italy

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