Linking Sustainable Development Assessment in Ireland and the European Union with Economic Theory

  • Luke McGrath National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Stephen Hynes National University of Ireland, Galway
  • John McHale National University of Ireland, Galway


Economists offer what is arguably the most internally consistent framework for sustainable development assessment, the so-called “capital approach”. To operationalise the capital approach, measures of the changes in comprehensive national wealth (Genuine Savings) are required. In this paper, we present estimates of Ireland’s Genuine Savings using the updated public spending code for direction and compare our results with existing estimates in the literature. For practical sustainability assessment, no single indicator is capable of providing an all-encompassing answer, but as we demonstrate, the current monitoring of sustainable development in Ireland and across the EU lacks coherence. We suggest potential paths forward for sustainability policy and assessment that preserve the link with economic theory. We show that regardless of the viewpoint taken on sustainability, the capital approach can provide guidance for a coherent assessment framework.

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