Eco-Efficient Innovation – State of the Art and Policy Recommendations

Hinterberger, F, Hammer, M., Luks, F., Omann, I., Stewen, M., Stocker, A., Hutterer, H., Strigl, A. & Schmidt-Bleek, F. (2004)

Paper for the Informal Environment Council on the 16th to 18th of July 2004 in Maastricht.

Sustainable development requires innovation towards radically dematerialised products, infrastructures and systems, as well as the change of consumption habits. The development and implementation of eco-efficient product service systems (PSS) is one of the most important company related steps towards sustainable development.

It is now widely recognized that a global reduction in resource consumption by 50% is needed in order to achieve sustainable development. As 20% of the world population consume 80% of the resources industrialised countries are requested to dematerialise by a factor of 10 to leave space for development in poorer countries (Factor 10 Institute 2000, p.3).

To bring development on the course of sustainability it is necessary to redesign the taxation system under the criteria of economic competitiveness, social justice and ecological carrying capacity. The two problems of mass unemployment and environmental crises are two sides of the same coin which have so far widely been recognised and treated as separated. In the discussion about the fiscal reform social and ecologic arguments cannot be separated.

By examining trends of a possible decoupling of economic growth and material use it is important to have in mind that a decoupling itself does not automatically lead to decreasing environmental pressures. Decoupling can take place in parallel with an absolute growth in material consumption and therefore further increasing environmental pressure (“rebound effect”).

Since dematerialisation is inevitable in the long run, economic advantage should accrue to those countries that have conditioned the economy early to this development. Japan seems to have incorporated this foresight into their long-term economic strategy. Since unemployment has stepwise increased over the last decades, only a radical change can lead to more employment so long as there are countries with low labour costs and subsidized transport.

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