The meaning of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) has been described as "elusive", as it differs from one jurisdiction to another. Legislation may omit a definition or refer to the need to achieve ESD without specifying what it is or how it should be achieved. Commonwealth legislation refers to ESD by defining its principles, which are:

  • decision-making processes should effectively integrate both long-term and short-term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations;
  • the precautionary principle - if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation;
  • the principle of inter-generational equity - that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations;
  • the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision-making; and
  • improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms should be promoted.

Although ESD lacks a precise accepted definition, it is generally recognised as an important concept as it ensures environmental factors and future generations are considered in assessing current development.

In this Insight, we undertake a detailed examination of the principles ecologically sustainable development both in Australia and internationally.

You can access a copy of The principles of ecologically sustainable development in Australia and internationally here, or click the 'DOWNLOAD PDF' below.

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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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