Keywords: environmental policy, indicators, instrument mix, policy integration, societal metabolism, environmental governance, sustainable development, sustainability, European Union, environmental protection, economic growth, production, consumption, Lisbon Strategy
Environmental governance in the European Union: strategies and instruments for absolute decoupling
The EU recently emphasised the need to speed up the pace of reforms to improve the state of the environment both in Europe and internationally. This becomes in particular challenging, as the 'Lisbon Strategy' defines the general goal of an annual economic growth rate of 3%. Decoupling of economic growth from the use of natural resources and the production of waste and emissions is regarded as the core strategy to reconcile environmental protection and continued economic growth. However, measurable policy targets are to a large extent, missing. Furthermore, a comprehensive headline indicator for the evaluation of progress towards an absolute reduction of environmental pressures is missing in the Lisbon indicator set. We use the concept of societal metabolism as a framework for deriving priority environmental policy themes for decoupling efforts. A mix of policy instruments is suggested for achieving the overarching target of absolute decoupling through dematerialisation (quantity) and detoxification (quality) of production and consumption activities.