Discussions of global environmental governance seem to have gotten nowhere in the last thirty years despite environmental problems that continue to grow in scope and magnitude. Here, the role of sustainable development in that failure is examined, particularly the constructively ambiguous nature of the paradigm. It is suggested that an emphasis on the shifting, contextualized and relative term ―needs‖ in the definition of sustainable development has led to paralysis at the international level in addressing environmental problems, particularly climate change. Contradictions that emerge when sustainable development is formalized in economic models as weak and strong sustainability are discussed. Finally, promising future pathways for environmental actions are explored.
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