strategy

Decoupling economic growth and pollution increase

Context:
Economic growth is tied to resource consumption growth. Both lead to environmental impact such as pollution increase. However, in recent decades countries, and particularly higher-income countries, have decoupled their development to some degree from pollution as a result of increasing resource efficiency, environmentally friendly technologies and methods, and increasing environmental awareness. Such decoupling needs to be further strengthened in economic activities in order to ensure sustainability.
Implementation:
Industrial countries have achieved significant improvements in environmental quality along with continued economic growth. Since 1970, air quality in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries has substantially improved. Particulate emissions have declined by 60% and sulphur oxides by 38%. Lead emissions have fallen by 85% in North America and by 50% in most European cities. Japan has achieved the largest improvements in air quality as a result of substantial pollution abatement expenditure. Annual expenditures on anti-pollution in OECD countries is equivalent to 0.8-1.5% of GDP since the 1970s. Access to clean water, adequate sanitation, and municipal waste disposal is almost universal in OECD countries. However, many environmental pollutants are still increasing in higher-income countries.
Claim:
1. Pollution and the exhaustion of natural resources depend and will depend in the future on the absolute level of total economic activity. This means that it is necessary to restrain both the rate of growth of population and, at least in the developed countries, the rate of growth of consumption per head.

2. The claim that economic growth and prosperity are a cure for environmental degradation is arguable. It is based largely on the "Kuznets curves" observed in some forms of pollution. When the amount of pollution is plotted against per capita GNP, an inverted U curve is produced. As economic activity grows, pollution first increases. Then, presumably because an increased concern for environmental amenities appears when basic needs are satisfied, pollution control is implemented and pollution decreases. Prosperity thus saves the environment. Unfortunately, such Kuznets curves are of limited application. Economic growth has helped to mitigate some kinds of air and water pollution, but production of many of the most important pollutants, among them carbon dioxide, keeps right on rising with prosperity.

Subjects:
Pollution
Economic
Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies