Cover Image
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

General conclusions

The differences between these development patterns should be of particular interest for future environmental and economic policy in general, and structural policy in particular. It seems that the reasons for such differences and their consequences deserve further attention.

Economic or industrial restructuring is more than an economic phenomenon, particularly if it is understood to convey a break in energy and materials intensity and in pollution trends, that is, a shift towards a significantly different environmental impact pattern. Structure is the key to many theoretical problems; industrial restructuring can be a key to solving present and preventing future environmental problems. Structure is both a comforting and a disturbing notion; restructuring should be made a less uncomfortable, more environmentally friendly strategy.

By implication, the temporally uneven development of the economies studied (discontinuity and gradualism) manifests itself in uneven spatial and social patterns. Our concern here was with the environmental impacts involved in and induced by structural change. The better the environmental impacts of industrial structures are understood, and the earlier they are taken into consideration, the easier it should be to channel industrial development in a direction that is consonant with environmental protection, and thus to improve on industrial metabolism.23

In this sense, the "economic late-comers" need not fall into the environmental trap that most of the "economic forerunners" ended up in. By the same token, there is enough evidence that some of the "economic forerunners" could do more to escape from being "environmental latecomers." This, however, would require not only proactive structural change in the economy but also a preventative environmental strategy. This means that environmentally benign market forces would have to be stimulated by structurally innovative policies.