Anil Markandya has worked as an environmental economist for over thirty years. He has held academic positions at the universities of Princeton, Berkeley and Harvard in the USA and at University College London and Bath University in the UK. He has served as an advisor to several governments and international organisations.
Nouvelle Europe: In your book entitled Green Accounting in Europe, you underlined the fact that “Conventional economic accounts, which measure Gross National Product (GNP) and related indicators of national performance, do not fully allow for the damages caused to the environment in the course of producing and consuming goods and services. Nor do they fully account for the fact that some resources are being depleted in achieving the living standards that we enjoy today.” How have European governments managed to measure environmental damages and what are the key environmental issues that countries are expected to encounter?
Anil Markandya: Extensive research has been conducted on ways to measure environmental damages caused by economic activities after I published this book. There are a number of indicators of “Green GDP” that include the costs of environmental pollution in the GDP, including the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, the Genuine Progress Indicator etc. The World Bank has also carried out estimates of the cost of environmental degradation in several developing countries. The main difficulty lies in evaluating some of the losses. It is relatively easy to measure health costs of, for example, air and water pollution, but it is more difficult to evaluate the damages done to some ecosystems, such as marine habitats, forests and so on.
N.E.: It can be argued that in Europe, many countries have started to include environmental costs in their national accounts. During the Rio +20 conference in June 2012, the UK was considered as a key player due to its proactive initiatives in the field of green accounting. Do you think that the UK should be considered as a model for other European countries in this field?
A.M.: Yes the UK is leading in many respects. It has just undertaken a major study entitled the 'National Ecosystem Assessment', in which authors determine the value of different habitats including agricultural land, forests, marine areas etc., and estimate the impact of policies on these environments, such as the Common Agricultural Policy. This shows that policies that appear to generate economic benefits by increasing output are in fact causing more damage than expected.
N.E.: In 2005, in one of your articles entitled "Turkey on the Path to EU Accession; The Environment Acquis" you wrote “in summary, Turkey faces an enormous challenge in meeting the environmental acquis, but not one that is beyond its capabilities”. Many would argue that environmental policy requires massive investments, up to 70 billion Euros, to ensure full compliance with the EU environmental acquis. This is considered to be one of the biggest challenges for Turkey and its accession.
A.M.: The main costs arise from the need to meet the requirements of the water and waste directives. This includes measures to ensure waste water treatment in all urban areas, which is expensive. The recently-adopted Water Framework Directive reinforces the legislative framework, as it introduces new requirements related to the cleanliness of rivers, lakes etc. The requirements concerning waste management and air quality would force Turkey to upgrade many of its facilities and decrease its emissions of greenhouse gases. All this is costly but not impossible. Moreover, some countries that have already joined the EU have been granted extended deadlines to adopt European standards. This could be the case for Turkey too.
To go further:
On Nouvelle Europe's website (in French)
- Dossier du mois de janvier 2013: l'Europe verte
Source photo: Anil Markandya & Tigris River, flickr