Sustainable Development: Double Challenge

It is hoped the Johannesburg summit will produce solutions to problems associated with energy consumption in the world’s poorer countries. How can demand for energy and economic development be reconciled with the need to safeguard people’s health and safety against pollution and the depletion of their resources?

The World Today
4 minute READ

John V. Mitchell

Former Associate Fellow, Environment and Society Programme

Sustainable development is a simple business idea. An enterprise should grow its own capital. A new machine replaces an old machine. Only if the new machine is cheaper or more productive, should the owners take more out of the business and consume more than they did when they used the old machine.

In the energy business, producers of fossil fuels are expected to find new reserves, or increase the efficiency of extraction from old reserves, to replace those they deplete. If they do not, the stock markets will mark them down as companies with a shrinking future. Some companies have disappeared, for example those that depleted the oil and gas reserves of the United States and failed to replace them with reserves elsewhere.

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