Opportunities, Barriers, Policy and Practice
Edited by Shane Fudge, Michael Peters, Steven M. Hoffman and Walter Wehrmeyer
Chapter 9: Decoupling environmental impact from economic growth in Norway: viable policy or techno-optimistic fantasy?
The debate over the environmental challenges has always contained the disagreements between so called techno optimists and the more traditional ‘environmentalists’, for lack of a better word (Strandbakken, 2009; Weissäcker et al, 1997). In the short hand version, this is the view that humankind’s ingenuity will save the day, that a ‘technological fix’ will appear that will take care of problems like global warming through carbon capture, unlimited supply of clean energy and so on, versus the view that ascetic lifestyles, frugality and environmentally motivated poverty will be necessary. Today, this debate is often enacted as disagreement over the potential of decoupling. The United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) International Resource Panel addresses this theme in the report Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth (UNEP, 2011), but rather than advocating poverty and ascetic lifestyles, the panel focuses on decoupling; ‘reducing the amount of resources such as water or fossil fuels to produce economic growth and delinking economic development from environmental deterioration’ (p. 4). Without spending too much time and space on definitions, we just state that the idea of decoupling is to split negative environmental effects from economic growth.
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