Towards a comprehensive framework of the relationships between resource footprints, quality of life and economic development

Stefan Cibulka, Stefan Giljum

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper

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The relationship between economic affluence, quality of life and environmental implications of production and
consumption activities is a recurring issue in sustainability discussions. A number of studies examined selected
relationships, but the general implications for future development directions of countries at different development
stages are hardly addressed. In this paper, we use a global dataset with 173 countries to assess the overall
relationship between resource footprints, quality of life and economic development over the period of 1990-2015.
We select the Material Footprint and Carbon Footprint and contrast them with the Human Development Index, the
Happiness Index and GDP per capita. Regression analyses show that the relationship between various resource
footprints and quality of life generally follows a logarithmic path of development, while resource footprints and
GDP per capita are linearly connected. From the empirical results, we derive a generalised path of development
and cluster countries along this path. Within this comprehensive framework, we discuss options to change the path
to respect planetary and social boundaries through a combination of resource efficiency increases, substitution of
industries and sufficiency of consumption. We conclude that decoupling and green growth will not realise
sustainable development, if planetary boundaries have already been transgressed.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationVienna
PublisherWU Vienna University of Economics and Business
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

SeriesEcological Economic Papers

WU Working Paper Series

  • Ecological Economic Papers

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