Sustainability, Sustainability Assessment, and the Place of Fiscal Sustainability

  • Paul Burger


Although the societal discourse on sustainable development has become more and more prominent and agenda setting, the scholarly work on it is still highly diverse. This is why the chapter steps back first to position the topic within the broader scientific discourse on sustainable development. An outline of the most influential sustainability conceptions is given to get options for discussing fiscal sustainability. As “sustainable” is understood as an evaluative term for development, the chapter takes account of methodological foundations for sustainability assessment as a second step. The chapter finally argues that fiscal sustainability should be treated as a part of the broader sustainability discourse as it is about “ensuring the state’s action and reaction potential”. However, it deals with an instrumental, not an intrinsic, good.


Intra- and intergenerational justice Sustainability conceptionsAssessment methodology Instrumental and intrinsic goods 


  1. Adger, W. N. (2006). Vulnerability. Global Environmental Change, 16(3), 268–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armitage, D. R., Plummer, R., Berkes, F., Arthur, R. I., Charles, A. T., Davidson-Hunt, I. J … Wollenberg, E. K. (2009). Adaptive Co-management for Social-Ecological Complexity. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7(2), 95–102.Google Scholar
  3. Barry, B. (1999). Sustainability and Intergenerational Justice. In A. Dobson (Ed.), Fairness and Futurity. Essays on Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice (pp. 93–117). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bellagio Principles. (1997). Bellagio Principles for Sustainability Assessment. Winnipeg: International Institute for Sustainable Development.Google Scholar
  5. Berkes, F., Colding, J., & Folke, C. (Eds.). (2006). Navigating Social-Ecological Systems. Building Resilience for Complexity and Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Burger, P., & Christen, M. (2011). Towards a Capability Approach of Sustainability. Journal of Cleaner Production, 19(8), 787–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burger, P., Hofstetter, N., Ott, J., & Riesen, J. (2014). Nachhaltigkeitsforschung in der Trinationalen Metropolregion Oberrhein (TMO) / Recherche sur la durabilité dans la Région Métropolitaine Trinationale du Rhin Supérieur (RMT). Basel: University of Basel.Google Scholar
  8. Call, C. T. (2011). Beyond the “Failed State”: Toward Conceptual Alternatives. European Journal of International Relations, 17(2), 303–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chambers, R., & Conway, G. R. (1992). Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: Practical Concepts for the 21st Century (Institute of Development Studies, Discussion Paper 296). Brighton: Institute of Development Studies. University of Sussex.Google Scholar
  10. Christen, M. (2013). Die Idee der Nachhaltigkeit. Eine werttheoretische Fundierung. Marburg: Metropolis.Google Scholar
  11. Christen, M., & Schmidt, S. (2011). A Formal Framework for Conceptions of Sustainability – a Theoretical Contribution to the Discourse in Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development, 20(6), 400–410. doi: 10.1002/sd.518.
  12. Dobson, A. (1996). Environmental Sustainabilities: An Analysis and a Typology. Environmental Politics, 5(3), 401–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ehrenfeld, J. R. (2004). Can Industrial Ecology Be the “Science of Sustainability”? Journal of Industrial Ecology, 8(1–2), 1–3.Google Scholar
  14. Farrelly, C. (2007). Justice in Ideal Theory: A Refutation. Political Studies, 55(4), 844–864.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fischer-Kowalski, M., & Haberl, H. (2007). Socioecological Transitions and Global Change. Trajectories of Social Metabolism and Land Use. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gallopin, G. C. (2006). Linkages between Vulnerability, Resilience, and Adaptive Capacity. Global Environmental Change, 16(3), 293–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Global Footprint Network. (2010). Data and Results from the 2010 Edition. Oakland: Global Footprint Network. Retrieved from
  18. Government of Kanton Basel-Stadt. (2014, September 18). Press Release on Budget 2015 [Press Release]. Retrieved from
  19. Gowdy, J. (2005). Toward a New Welfare Economics for Sustainability. Ecological Economics, 53(2), 211–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grober, U. (2010). Die Entdeckung der Nachhaltigkeit. Kulturgeschichte eines Begriffs. München: Antje Kunstmann.Google Scholar
  21. Grunwald, A. (2009). Konzepte nachhaltiger Entwicklung vergleichen – aber wie? Diskursebenen und Vergleichsmaßstäbe. In T. Egan-Krieger, J. Schulz, P. P. Thapa, & L. Voget (Eds.), Die Greifswalder Theorie starker Nachhaltigkeit. Ausbau, Anwendung und Kritik (pp. 41–64). Marburg: Metropolis.Google Scholar
  22. Habermas, J. (2007). Theory of Communicative Action. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hopton, M. E., Cabezas, H., Campbell, D., Eason, T., Garmestani, A. S., Heberling, M. T., et al. (2010). Development of a Multidisciplinary Approach to Assess Regional Sustainability. The International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 17(1), 48–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Janssen, M., & Ostrom, E. (2006). Resilience, Vulnerability, and Adaptation: A Cross-Cutting Theme of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change [Editorial]. Global Environmental Change, 16(3), 237–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kates, R. W., Parris, T. M., & Leiserowitz, A. A. (2005). What Is Sustainable Development? Goals, Indicators, Values, and Practice. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 47(3), 8–21.Google Scholar
  26. Kemp, R., Loorbach, D., & Rotmans, J. (2007a). Transition Management as a Model for Managing Processes of Co-evolution. The International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology (special issue on (co)-evolutionary approach to sustainable development), 14, 78–91.Google Scholar
  27. Lafferty, W. M. (2004a). Introduction: Form and Function in Governance for Sustainable Development. In W. M. Lafferty (Ed.), Governance for Sustainable Development: The Challenge of Adapting Form to Function (pp. 1–31). Cheltenham & Northampton: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lafferty, W. M. (2004b). From Environmental Protection to Sustainable Development: the Challenge of Decoupling Through Sectoral Integration. In W. M. Lafferty (Ed.), Governance for Sustainable Development: The Challenge of Adapting Form to Function (pp. 191–220). Cheltenham & Northampton: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Meadowcroft, J. (2004). Participation and Sustainable Development: Modes of Citizen, Community and Organisational Involvement. In W. M. Lafferty (Ed.), Governance for Sustainable Development: The Challenge of Adapting Form to Function (pp. 161–190). Cheltenham & Northampton: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  30. Meyer, L. (2015). Intergenerational Justice. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved March 12, 2017, from
  31. Moser, A. (2014). Ein Metaverständnis der Nachhaltigkeitsbewertung. Für eine vergleichende strukturelle Analyse zur Standortbestimmung der wissenschaftlichen Nachhaltigkeitsbewertung im Energiebereich (Master Thesis). Basel: University of Basel.Google Scholar
  32. Norton, B. G. (2005). Sustainability. A Philosophy of Adaptive Ecosystem Management. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nuclear Energy Agency. (2000). Nuclear Energy in a Sustainable Development Perspective. Paris: OECD. Retrieved from Scholar
  34. Ostrom, E. (2009). A General Framework for Analyzing Sustainability of Social- Ecological Systems. Science, 325, 419–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ott, K., & Döring, R. (2008). Theorie und Praxis starker Nachhaltigkeit. Marburg: Metropolis.Google Scholar
  36. Pahl-Wostl, C. (2009). A Conceptual Framework for Analysing Adaptive Capacity and Multi-Level Learning Processes in Resource Governance Regimes. Global Environmental Change, 19(3), 354–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Parfit, D. (1984). Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Partridge, E. (2001). Future Generations. In D. Jamieson (Ed.), A Companion to Environmental Philosophy (pp. 377–389). Oxford: Blackwell Publisher.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pearce, D., & Atkinson, G. (1998). The Concept of Sustainable Development: An Evaluation of Its Usefulness Ten Years after Brundtland (Center for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment, Working Paper PA 98-02). Norwich: University of East Anglia.Google Scholar
  40. Pearce, D., Markandya, A., & Barbier, E. B. (1991). Blueprint for a Green Economy. London: Earthscan Publications.Google Scholar
  41. Rauschmayer, F., Omann, I., & Frühmann, J. (Eds.). (2012). Sustainable Development: Capabilities, Needs, and Well-Being. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. Renn, O., & Klinke, A. (2015). Risk Governance and Resilience: New Approaches to Cope with Uncertainty and Ambiguity. In U. F. Paleo (Ed.), Risk Governance (pp. 19–41). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  43. Robèrt, K. H., Schmidt-Bleek, B., De Larderel, J. A., Basile, G., Jansen, J. L., Kuehr, R., et al. (2002). Strategic Sustainable Development – Selection, Design and Synergies of Applied Tools. Journal of Cleaner Production, 10(3), 197–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Smith, A., & Sterling A. (2008). Social-Ecological Resilience and Socio-Technological Transitions: Critical Issues for Sustainability Governance (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Working Paper 8). Brighton: Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Centre.Google Scholar
  45. Solow, R. M. (1974). Intergenerational Equity and Exhaustible Resources. The Review of Economic Studies, 41, 29–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sustainable Development Commission UK. (2006). The Role of Nuclear Power in a Low Carbon Economy (UK Sustainable Development Commission Position Paper). London: UK Sustainable Development Commission. Retrieved from
  47. United Nations. (1992). The Rio Declaration. Rio de Janeiro: United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Retrieved from Scholar
  48. von Carlowitz, H. C. (2012). Sylvicultura oeconomica. Anweisung zur wilden Baum-Zucht (Faksimile der Erstauflage). Remagen: Kessel Verlag.Google Scholar
  49. Voss, J. P., Bauknecht, D., & Kemp, R. (Eds.). (2006). Reflexive Governance for Sustainable Development. Cheltenham & Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  50. Voss, J. P., Newig, J., Kastens, B., Monstadt, J., & Nölting, B. (2007). Steering for Sustainable Development: A Typology of Problems and Strategies with Respect to Ambivalence, Uncertainty and Distributed Power. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 9(3–4), 193–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weale, A. (2011). New Modes of Governance, Political Accountability and Public Reason. Government and Opposition, 46(1), 58–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Our Common Future. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Burger
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BaselBaselSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations