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Eco-efficiency guiding micro-level actions towards sustainability: Ten basic steps for analysis

  • Huppes, Gjalt
  • Ishikawa, Masanobu
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    This paper looks at the compatibility between technological improvements at the micro-level and sustainability at the macro-level. The two main approaches to prevent environmental degradation are technological improvement and economic degrowth. How do we establish the sustainability of technological options? LCA-type analysis of the technology system, combined with economic cost analysis, offers a first integrated eco-efficiency score. However, such a technology analysis focuses on micro-level technology relations only, is usually too optimistic and ignores other constraints implied in a choice. Fitting more comprehensive knowledge into the sustainability evaluation of options requires a unifying systematic framework, which is worked out in the present paper as a ten-step procedure. The integrative framework for empirical analysis is ultimately a comparative-static systems analysis at macro-level, not in a deterministic dynamic mode, which is impossible, but as a knowledge-fed scenario analysis. The analysis shows the change in society's overall eco-efficiency, combining total value creation with total environmental impacts. Possible domains of application include not only technology choices like those in eco-innovation, including changed consumption styles and volumes, but also changes in policies regarding technologies and markets, whether direct policy shifts or indirect changes through institutional adaptations. Ultimately, such a framework also allows culturally framed questions about the type of society we would like to live in, to be analysed in terms of their economic and environmental consequences.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 68 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 6 (April)
    Pages: 1687-1700

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:68:y:2009:i:6:p:1687-1700
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

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    1. York, Richard & Rosa, Eugene A. & Dietz, Thomas, 2003. "STIRPAT, IPAT and ImPACT: analytic tools for unpacking the driving forces of environmental impacts," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 351-365, October.
    2. Faye Duchin, 2005. "A world trade model based on comparative advantage with m regions, n goods, and k factors," Economic Systems Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(2), pages 141-162.
    3. Dietz, Simon & Neumayer, Eric, 2007. "Weak and strong sustainability in the SEEA: Concepts and measurement," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(4), pages 617-626, March.
    4. Livio D. DeSimone & Frank Popoff, 2000. "Eco-Efficiency: The Business Link to Sustainable Development," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262541092, June.
    5. Searchinger, Timothy & Heimlich, Ralph & Houghton, R. A. & Dong, Fengxia & Elobeid, Amani & Fabiosa, Jacinto F. & Tokgoz, Simla & Hayes, Dermot J. & Yu, Hun-Hsiang, 2008. "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change," Staff General Research Papers 12881, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    6. Douglass C. North, 2005. "Introduction to Understanding the Process of Economic Change
      [Understanding the Process of Economic Change]
      ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
    7. Huppes, Gjalt & Ishikawa, Masanobu, 2007. "Sustainability evaluation: Diverging routes recombined?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 199-200, April.
    8. Huppes, G. & Davidson, M.D. & Kuyper, J. & van Oers, L. & Udo de Haes, H.A. & Warringa, G., 2007. "Eco-efficient environmental policy in oil and gas production in The Netherlands," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 43-51, February.
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