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Dematerialization, decoupling, and productivity Change

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  • Eric Kemp-Benedict

    () (Stockholm Environment Institute (SE))

Abstract

The prospects for long-term sustainability depend on whether, and how much, we can absolutely decouple economic output from total energy and material throughput. While relative decoupling has occurred – that is, resource use has grown less quickly than the economy – absolute decoupling has not, raising the question whether it is possible. This paper proposes a novel explanation for why decoupling has not happened historically, drawing on a recent theory of cost-share induced productivity change and an extension of post-Keynesian pricing theory to natural resources. Cost-share induced productivity change and pricing behavior set up two halves of a dynamic, which we explore from a post-Keynesian perspective. In this dynamic, resource costs as a share of GDP move towards a stable level, at which the growth rate of resource productivity is typically less than the growth rate of GDP. This provides a parsimonious explanation of the prevalence of relative over absolute decoupling. The paper then presents some illustrative applications of the theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Kemp-Benedict, 2017. "Dematerialization, decoupling, and productivity Change," Working Papers PKWP1709, Post Keynesian Economics Society (PKES).
  • Handle: RePEc:pke:wpaper:pkwp1709
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    decoupling; dematerialization; cost-share induced technological change;

    JEL classification:

    • E12 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Keynes; Keynesian; Post-Keynesian
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • Q32 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Exhaustible Resources and Economic Development

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