Putting sustainability into sustainable human development

Journal of Human Development and Capabilities 1 (14):58-76 (2013)
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Abating the threat climate change poses to the lives of future people clearly challenges our development models. The 2011 Human Devel- opment Report rightly focuses on the integral links between sustainability and equity. However, the human development and capabilities approach emphasizes the expansion of people’s capabilities simpliciter, which is ques- tionable in view of environmental sustainability. We argue that capabilities should be defined as triadic relations between an agent, constraints and poss- ible functionings. This triadic syntax particularly applies to climate change: since people’s lives and capabilities are dependent on the environment, sus- tainable human development should also include constraining human activi- ties in order to prevent losses in future people’s well-being due to the adverse effects of exacerbated climate change. On this basis, we will advocate that the goals of sustainable human development should be informed by a fra- mework that consists of enhancing capabilities up to a threshold level, as well as constraining the functionings beyond this threshold in terms of their green- house gas emissions.

Author Profiles

Wouter Peeters
University of Birmingham
Sigrid Sterckx
University of Ghent


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