Kuznets curves suggest that there is a natural rise in pollution as economies develop, and then around $8,000 per capita income, pollution starts to reduce, although never to the levels they started at. Maybe this gives some hope for us all: the necessary development of China, India et al needn’t destroy the world.
I think that although the environmental kuznets curve might be valid for some environmental problems, I don´t think it holds for the most important one at the moment – greenhouse gas emissions. For pollutants which have large local impacts, like eg sulphur dioxide, as countries get richer they may well act to reduce these pollutants. But ghgs are a global rather than local problem, so there is less direct self-interest for reducing them. There´s some evidence that ghg emissions are peaking for developed countries (but not dropping much), but to get them down will require major concerted political effort, rather than it will
Thinking about it, I guess the link I hadn´t made before is that working on some root causes (poverty, maladministration, underdevelopment) can help with symptoms like GHGs. Certainly wasn´t wanting to suggest that we could give up and smoke a cigar because it would all work out in the end.