Skip to Main content

Environmental Kuznets Curve

The Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) is a tool that has been used to observe the impact of affluence on the environment. It is used to model the interrelation between affluence (measured in per capita GDP) and environmental impacts (in terms of physical amounts per capita), while keeping population numbers constant.

The EKC hypothesis states (arousing much controversy) that the environment is initially exploited to a great extent in order to create economic growth but when an economy becomes developed enough, the environment becomes more valued, and technical progress makes it possible to create wealth with less environmental stress. Therefore, as countries become wealthier, environmental stress will begin to decline at a certain income level. This might be true for some pollutants (such as sulphur dioxide), but it is not true for carbon dioxide emissions, domestic waste and other variables.


Fischer-Kowalski, M. and Amann, C. (2001) ‘Beyond IPAT and Kuznets curves: globalisation as a vital factor in analysing the environmental impact of socio-economic metabolism’, Population and Environment, 23(1): 7–47.

See also Affluence and environmental impact.

This glossary entry is based on a contribution by Julien Francois Gerber

EJOLT glossary editors: Hali Healy, Sylvia Lorek and Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos

Comments are closed.