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close this bookIndustrial Metabolism: Restructuring for Sustainable Development (UNU, 1994, 376 pages)
close this folderPart 1: General implications
close this folder3. Industrial restructuring in industrial countries
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentIdentifying indicators of environmentally relevant structural change
View the documentStructural change as environmental relief
View the documentEnvironmentally relevant structural change: Empirical analysis
View the documentTypology of environmentally relevant structural change
View the documentSpecific conclusions
View the documentGeneral conclusions

Typology of environmentally relevant structural change

As was explained above, the shifts in the international position of countries listed in figures 3 to 5 relate to structural per capita impacts only - i.e. no account is being taken of the individual country's economic growth rate. For example, the shift in Norway's position coincided with a high rate of economic growth (see table 2) so that the environmentally benign effects of structural change were partly neutralized. To be sure, the absolute (per capita) environmental impacts are of the utmost importance for the environmental policy debate. However, structural change in relation to the growth of the economy is also relevant for the environmental situation of a country. There may be no structural improvement in absolute (per capita) terms because high growth rates neutralize the otherwise positive effects of structural change.

To differentiate the patterns of change, the following typology may be useful:

1. Absolute structural improvement, i.e. an absolute (per capita) decline in production factors (sectors) causing high environmental impacts.
2. Relative structural improvement, i.e. a relative decline in production factors (sectors) causing high environmental impacts compared to the growth of the economy.
3. Absolute structural deterioration (which includes relative deterioration), i.e. a disproportional increase in production factors (sectors) causing high environmental impacts compared to the growth of the economy.

Environmental gratis effects may be defined as those effects that occur when (ceteris paribus) the rate of usage of those factors (sectors) having an impact on the environment remains (considerably) below the growth rate of the GDP (type 1 and 2).

In table 2 16 countries out of the whole sample of industrial countries investigated are grouped according to these three different de velopment patterns. Again, we use here the above indicators of an energyand materials-intensive mode of production, i.e. consumption of primary energy and crude steel, weight of freight transport, and cement production.

Table 2 Environmentally relevant structural change: percentage changes 1970/1985

Country Consumption of  
Weight of




Group 1: Absolute structural improvement

Belgium 7.1 - 24.5 - 17.6 - 2.2 42.7
Denmark -2.7 - 15.6 - 33.2 20.1 40.8
France 30.3 - 34.8 - 23.4 - 14.5 51.6
FRG 13.4 - 26.3 - 32.8 4.4 38.4
Sweden 26.4 - 37.9 - 41.2 - 21.4 32.7
United Kingdom - 2.3 - 43.5 - 28.7 - 18.2 32.4

Group 2: Relative structural improvement

Austria 32.1 - 33.9 - 6.0 21.3 54.3
Finland 39.6 14.8 - 11.2 12.2 65.7
Japan 37.3 - 2.3 27.4 7.5 90.2
Norway 51.1 - 21.6 - 40.3 34.7 87.5

Group 3: Structural deterioration

Bulgaria 74.9 24.9 42.3 77.5 37.3
Czechoslovakia 31.5 22.5 37.3 62.9 33.9
Greece 119.3 67.3 162.9 43.1 69.1
Portugal 89.0 34.2 133.1 27.4 69.0
Soviet Union 76.3 33.4 35.9 70.2 47.7
Turkey 218.8 184.4 173.2 118.6 118.2

Source: Jänicke et al. (note 8).

a. Calculation of the Gross Domestic Product percentage changes on the basis of constant (1980) US dollars. Bulgaria. Czechoslovakia, and Soviet Union data refer to percentage changes between 1970 and 1983 in the Gross National Product.

b. Transport data only take railway transport data into account.

Of all the industrial countries studied, Sweden (see figure 6) is the environmentally most positive case. Although the growth rate of industrial production was very low after 1973, Sweden increased its GDP quite considerably, primarily through an expansion of the service sector. The drastic reduction in cement production (-41.2 per cent), the decreasing consumption of crude steel (-37.9 per cent), and the decrease in the weight of freight transport (-21.4 per cent) add up to notable overall environmental gratis effects.

Also in the United Kingdom, the four structural impact factors decreased by between 2.3 per cent and 43.5 per cent but, in contrast to Sweden, these reductions were connected with, or induced by, high mass unemployment.

Fig. 6 Structural economic change in Sweden, 1970-1985 (1970 = 100) (Source: Jänicke et al., note 8)

In Denmark, too, structural change in the economy decreased the importance of the energy- and materials-intensive sectors quite considerably. Between 1970 and 1985, the GDP grew by some 40.8 per cent, while three of the four impact factors decreased by between 2.7 per cent and 33.2 per cent.

In Japan (see figure 7), the process of delinking was partly neutralized by the rapid growth in overall industrial production and thus only resulted in relative structural improvement (see group 2 in table 2). The conclusion can be drawn that a forced rate of industrial growth interferes with the environmental relief of structural change. Countries with high growth rates must therefore undertake stringent remedial environmental protection measures in order to achieve a net relief for the environment.

In Czechoslovakia (see figure 8), no real delinking of economic growth from the four impact factors took place; some of them even increased. After the oil price hike of 1979 the economy entered a crisis. The development profile of Czechoslovakia, which had undertaken no structural change at the time under investigation, was representative of the economies of Eastern Europe. Group 3 of the countries (see table 2) consists for the most part of industrial latecomers, then in an early stage of industrialization. But Czechoslovakia was a relatively old industrial economy that (in 1985) ranked at the top among the countries suffering from high structural environmental impacts per capita.

This leads at least to two specific questions: (1) do all late-comers have to go through stages of increasing environmental impacts; and (2) what prevents old industrial countries from taking an environmentally friendly development path? A third, more general, question is, of course: What is to be learned from past experience, and under what conditions can economic restructuring become a strategic variable, or point of departure, for sustainable development?