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Fifty shades of green: Revisiting decoupling by economic sectors and air pollutants


  • Naqvi, Asjad
  • Zwickl, Klara


Using a consistent dataset for eighteen EU countries, six economic sectors, and six pollution indicators, we analyze decoupling of production–based emissions from GDP growth from 1995 to 2008. Computing decoupling factors as defined by the OECD (2002), we find that in almost all sectors and by almost all pollutants the median EU country had at least some decoupling. However, considerable heterogeneity in its magnitude can be observed across countries, sectors, and pollutants. For most pollutants and sectors, median decoupling performance improved from 2001–2008 compared to 1995–2001, while between–country disparities increased simultaneously. In a second step, we investigate country–level changes in decoupling states between the two sub–periods based on Tapio (2005). We find high diversity across countries and over time. To explain these differences across countries and sectors, we assess the impact of environmental policy stringency, and find tentative evidence that stricter policy encourages decoupling, however the effects are small and imprecise, differ by economic sector and pollutant, and take several years to materialize.

Suggested Citation

  • Naqvi, Asjad & Zwickl, Klara, 2017. "Fifty shades of green: Revisiting decoupling by economic sectors and air pollutants," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 111-126.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:133:y:2017:i:c:p:111-126
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2016.09.017

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Claire Brunel & Arik Levinson, 2013. "Measuring Environmental Regulatory Stringency," Working Papers gueconwpa~13-13-02, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    2. Ian Parry & Chandara Veung & Dirk Heine, 2015. "How Much Carbon Pricing Is In Countries’ Own Interests? The Critical Role Of Co-Benefits," Climate Change Economics (CCE), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 6(04), pages 1-26, November.
    3. Enrico Botta & Tomasz Koźluk, 2014. "Measuring Environmental Policy Stringency in OECD Countries: A Composite Index Approach," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1177, OECD Publishing.
    4. Marcel P. Timmer & Erik Dietzenbacher & Bart Los & Robert Stehrer & Gaaitzen J. Vries, 2015. "An Illustrated User Guide to the World Input–Output Database: the Case of Global Automotive Production," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(3), pages 575-605, August.
    5. Tapio, Petri, 2005. "Towards a theory of decoupling: degrees of decoupling in the EU and the case of road traffic in Finland between 1970 and 2001," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 137-151, March.
    6. Peters, Glen P., 2008. "From production-based to consumption-based national emission inventories," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 13-23, March.
    7. Wiedmann, Thomas, 2009. "A review of recent multi-region input-output models used for consumption-based emission and resource accounting," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 211-222, December.
    8. Arindrajit Dube & T. William Lester & Michael Reich, 2010. "Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders: Estimates Using Contiguous Counties," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 945-964, November.
    9. Catherine Brinkley, 2014. "Decoupled: Successful Planning Policies in Countries that Have Reduced per Capita Greenhouse Gas Emissions with Continued Economic Growth," Environment and Planning C, , vol. 32(6), pages 1083-1099, December.
    10. de Koning, Arjan & Bruckner, Martin & Lutter, Stephan & Wood, Richard & Stadler, Konstantin & Tukker, Arnold, 2015. "Effect of aggregation and disaggregation on embodied material use of products in input–output analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 289-299.
    11. Catherine Brinkley, 2014. "Decoupled: successful planning policies in countries that have reduced per capita greenhouse gas emissions with continued economic growth," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 32(6), pages 1083-1099, December.
    12. Kyle W. Knight & Juliet B. Schor, 2014. "Economic Growth and Climate Change: A Cross-National Analysis of Territorial and Consumption-Based Carbon Emissions in High-Income Countries," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(6), pages 1-10, June.
    13. Arindrajit Dube & Ethan Kaplan & Owen Thompson, 2016. "Nurse Unions and Patient Outcomes," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 69(4), pages 803-833, August.
    14. Elisabeth Conrad & Louis F. Cassar, 2014. "Decoupling Economic Growth and Environmental Degradation: Reviewing Progress to Date in the Small Island State of Malta," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(10), pages 1-22, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Orset, Caroline, 2019. "How Do Travellers Respond to Health and Environmental Policies to Reduce Air Pollution?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 68-82.
    2. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:7:p:1092-:d:102344 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:spr:endesu:v:20:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10668-018-0238-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Jeyhun I. Mikayilov & Fakhri J. Hasanov & Marzio Galeotti, 2018. "Decoupling of C02 Emissions and GDP: A Time-Varying Cointegration Approach," IEFE Working Papers 101, IEFE, Center for Research on Energy and Environmental Economics and Policy, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
    5. Marwil J. Dávila-Fernández & Serena Sordi, 2018. "Attitudes Toward Climate Policies in a Macrodynamic Model of the Economy," Department of Economics University of Siena 784, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    6. repec:eee:enepol:v:116:y:2018:i:c:p:30-38 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Energy efficiency; Decoupling indicators; Environmental policy stringency;

    JEL classification:

    • O44 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Environment and Growth
    • Q4 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics


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