Sustainable development requires innovation towards radically dematerialised products, infrastructures and systems, as well as the change of consumption habits. Ecological economic policy has to support these changes, since endogenous market forces are not sufficient to solve ongoing environmental and socio-economic problems.
Environmental degradation depends considerably on input quantities, which are taken from and transferred again to the environment in form of emissions and wastes. Thus, the primary aim of ecological economic policy is to enhance the dematerialisation of economic processes. A dematerialisation strategy demands decreasing material and energy throughput of the socio-economic system in order to reduce environmental pressures in absolute terms.
By examining trends of a possible decoupling of economic growth and material use it is important to have in mind that a decoupling itself does not automatically lead to decreasing environmental pressures. Decoupling can take place in parallel with an absolute growth in material consumption and therefore further increasing environmental pressure (“rebound effect”).
Therefore the transition to sustainable development has a need for moderate but steady pressure from policy.
We understand an ecological economic policy to be the sum of all economic and environmental policy measures and instruments, which have as their goal a dematerialisation of the entire economy.
Appropriate measures and instruments must cover several possibilities for supporting ecological structural change. The policy framework for the aforementioned strategy of tax shift and social policy include:
• Supporting voluntary changes
• Information on material intensities
• Education and training
• Product responsibility and guarantees
• Cooperation and negotiated solutions
Over time the political process should serve to produce a suitable combination. Moreover, an ecological economic policy also influences industrial-, monetary-, fiscal- and social policy.