The OECD report is almost exclusively about environmental policy (on which it
contains a mass of useful data and discussion). There is, commendably, hardly
any discussion of the implications of the usual core condition in consensus
definitions of sustainable development, namely that there should be no future
decline in per capita welfare. Economists would also do well to ignore this
condition, and hence the problem of a possible conflict between optimality and
sustainability. And, insofar as it is believed that there is a conflict, we should opt for optimality since the ethical grounds for not doing so—e.g. that pure time preference over generations is unethical or that we have to respect the rights of future generations—are weak. A second major omission is more serious and is the report’s failure to get to grips with crucial constitutive and instrumental components of sustainable development, notably civil and political liberties.