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Material flow accounting of Spain

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Material throughput is a means of measuring the so-called social metabolism, or physical dimensions of a society's consumption, and can be taken as an indirect and approximate indicator of sustainability. Material flow accounting can be used to test the dematerialisation hypothesis, the idea that technological progress causes a decrease in total material used (strong dematerialisation) or material used per monetary unit of output (weak dematerialisation). This paper sets out the results of a material flow analysis for Spain for the period from 1980 to 2000. The analysis reveals that neither strong nor weak dematerialisation took place during the period analysed. Although the population did not increase considerably, materials mobilised by the Spanish economy (DMI) increased by 85% in absolute terms, surpassing GDP growth. In addition, Spain became more dependent on external trade in physical terms. In fact, its imports are more than twice the amount of its exports in terms of weight.
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Material flow accounting of Spain
Sílvia Cañellas, Ana Citlalic González,
Ignasi Puig, Daniela Russi*,
Cristina Sendra and Amalia Sojo
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona,
Departament d’Economia i d’Història Econòmica, Edifici B,
08193 Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), Barcelona, Spain
E-mail: anacitlalic.gonzalez@campus.uab.es
E-mail: E-mail: ipuig@ent-consulting.com
silvia.canellas@uab.es
E-mail: daniela.russi@uab.es E-mail: cristina.sendra@uab.es
E-mail: asojo@curs.ictnet.es
*Corresponding author
Abstract: Material throughput is a means of measuring the so-called social metabolism, or physical dimensions of a society’s
consumption, and can be taken as an indirect and approximate indicator of sustainability. Material flow accounting can be used to
test the dematerialisation hypothesis, the idea that technological progress causes a decrease in total material used (strong
dematerialisation) or material used per monetary unit of output (weak dematerialisation).
This paper sets out the results of a material flow analysis for Spain for the period from 1980 to 2000. The analysis reveals that
neither strong nor weak dematerialisation took place during the period analysed. Although the population did not increase
considerably, materials mobilised by the Spanish economy (DMI) increased by 85% in absolute terms, surpassing GDP growth.
In addition, Spain became more dependent on external trade in physical terms. In fact, its imports are more than twice the amount
of its exports in terms of weight.
Keywords: material flow accounting; Spain; dematerialisation; external trade; environmental Kuznets curve; economic growth;
social metabolism.
Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Cañellas, S., González, A.C., Puig, I., Russi, D., Sendra, C. and Sojo,
A. (2004) ‘Material flow accounting of Spain’, Int. J. Global Environmental Issues, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp.229–241.
Biographical notes: Sílvia Cañellas received her bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from Autonomous University of
Barcelona (2000). Cañellas spent six months working on a research project at Bergen University, Norway. Her research topic is
environmental management.
Ana Citlalic González received her MS in environmental economics and natural resources from UCL, University of London
(1997) and a MS in ecological economics and environmental management from Autonomous University of Barcelona (2003).
Her research topics are cost–benefit analysis and economic valuation, multi-criteria analysis.
Copyright © 2004 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd. Ignasi Puig received his master’s degree
in ecological economics and environmental management from Autonomous University of Barcelona (2000) and an MS
in modelling, monitoring and management of environmental change from King’s College, London. His research topics
are environmental taxes and urban waste management.
Daniela Russi received her bachelor’s degree in environmental economics from University of Siena, Italy (2001). In
2000, Russi spent five months at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate and Environment, Germany. She received a MS in
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ecological economics and environmental management from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Her research
topics are multi-criteria evaluation and energy policy, material flow accounting and environmental conflicts.
Cristina Sendra received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Autonomous University of Barcelona
(2001). In 2001, Sendra spent five months at the Environmental Engineering Department of Politecnico of Milano,
Italy. Her research topics are industrial ecology, environmental indicators and material flow accounting.
Amalia Sojo received her master’s degree in environmental engineering from University of Barcelona (2000) and she
received a MS in ecological economics and environmental management from the Autonomous University of Barcelona
(2001). At present, Sojo is working at Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, in Puebla (Mexico).
Her research topics are life cycle analysis and industrial ecology.
Introduction
There is burgeoning literature on the topic of environmental Kuznets curve, a hypothesis based on the idea that
economic and technological development allows for the reduction of environmental impact of societies (Rothman,
1998). If verified, this hypothesis would lead to important political consequences, in the sense that following the
present development path will lead to a more sustainable economic system. This would mean that environmental
measures are not necessary, and that instead, the environment would benefit from policies that aim at stimulating
the economic growth.
An interesting way to test this hypothesis is to analyse the amount of material used by a country in physical
terms. The material used cannot be taken as a direct measure of sustainability: many materials, used in small
quantities, such as mercury, can have highly negative effects on the environment. Nevertheless, the
1
total amount of material used by an economy can give insights into its ‘social metabolism ’(Fischer-Kowalski,
1998a; 1998b) and can be applied as an indirect measure of the environmental impact. In fact, materials must be
extracted and processed in order to produce goods that are then transported, exchanged, used and finally,
discharged. All these activities have environmental impacts.
Material flow accounting can be used to test the dematerialisation hypothesis (Bruyn and Opschoor, 1997).
According to this theory, countries tend to use less material in absolute terms (strong dematerialisation) or at least
per unit of service produced (weak dematerialisation or decoupling) due to technological progress, which is in turn
made possible by economic growth. The dematerialisation hypothesis can be seen as a different formulation of the
environmental Kuznets curve. In addition, information about a country’s level of dependence on materials coming
from other economic systems can be of use. Much research has already been carried out in this direction on
international (Fischer-Kowalski and Amann, 2001; Bringezu and Schütz, 2001) and national scale (Carpintero,
2002; Alonso and Bailón, 2003).
This paper analyses material flows associated with the Spanish economy between 1980 and 2000. The Eurostat
methodology (EUROSTAT, 2001) has been followed in order to ensure comparability with other similar analyses
conducted for different countries in Europe (Bringezu and Schütz, 2001), as well as for other countries such as the
USA, Japan (Adriaanse et al., 1997) and Brazil (Matthews et al., 2000). The Eurostat methodology produces quite
adequate and easy-obtained indicators, providing a first overview on the physical dimensions of a country.
In this framework, a complete balance of an economy can be carried out (Figure 1) by taking into account what
crosses the system’s boundaries. However, this methodology does not specifically analyse the different sectors of
the economy. In other words, the system is regarded as a ‘black box.’ The basis of the methodology is the first law
of thermodynamics which states that – with the exception of nuclear reactions – matter is neither created nor
destroyed. Thus the net accumulation of materials in a system can be calculated as the difference between what
enters (inputs) the system and what goes out (outputs).
Figure 1 Economy-wide material balance (excluding air and water)
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According to the Eurostat classification, material flows can be domestic, if extracted from the system, or ROW, if
coming from the Rest Of the World. ROW material flows can be direct or indirect. The former enter directly into
the system while the latter – the so-called ecological rucksack – are linked to the production of goods, even if these
resources are later not exchanged in the market. In addition, both direct domestic and ROW material flows can be
used and unused. The latter represent materials extracted or discarded during the production of a good, i.e. mining
overburden, while the term used refers to an input for use in the economy.
This paper focuses on direct material inputs, due to the fact that even though indirect flows increase the
comprehensiveness of the analysis, they also increase its arbitrariness. This is because indirect flows are calculated
by multiplying direct flows by standard coefficients. However, in reality they vary considerably depending on many
factors, such as the state of technology and the economic conditions of a country. Moreover, if indirect flows are
accounted for, comparisons between countries may imply double-counting internationally traded goods since
indirect flows are accounted for twice – in both the exporting and the importing country. It should also be noted that
water and air are excluded (although the water and air content present in materials are included), as they represent
nearly 95% of the entire metabolism of an industrial society (Schandl, Weisz and Petrovic, 2000).
In the Eurostat methodological guide (EUROSTAT, 2001) material flows are classified into three main material
groups (minerals, energy and biomass) and into three main categories (imports, exports and domestic extraction),
which are used to structure the indicators calculated in this study:
.• Domestic extraction: Materials extracted in the national territory per year.
Direct material input (DMI): Domestic extraction (DE) plus direct material imports
(I) (DMI = DE + I). .• Domestic material consumption (DMC): DMI minus direct material exports (E)
(DMC = DMI – E = DE + I – E).
Is Spain dematerialising?
The Spanish economy has experienced a strong growth in the last twenty years in a path of convergence in income
per capita with the older members of the European Union. This period includes
. • cycles of recession, stagnation and recuperation . • structural change (due to an increasing predominance of the
service sector in terms of employment and economic added value) . • an increasing use of natural resources, this
section analyses the impact of this economic performance on material use.
Firstly, strong dematerialisation did not take place since the use of materials steadily increased over this period. For
instance, the material moved by the economy, expressed by the direct material input (DMI), increased by 85%
between 1980 and 2000. As can be observed in Figure 2, domestic extraction (DE), domestic material input (DMI)
and domestic material consumption (DMC) followed a similar path. Material consumed in Spain (DMC) increased
by 78.5%. This tendency has also been observed in the long term.
2
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Carpintero (2002) gave figures for the total material requirement (TMR) of the Spanish economy showing
that it was 4.5 times larger in the 1990s than it was in the 1950s.
Figure 2 Spanish DE, DMI and DMC (1980–2000)
DMC measured in per capita terms increased from 9.5 ton/person in 1990 to 16 ton/person in 2000 while
population remained almost stable during this period. The population was 37.5 million in 1980, 38.8 million in
1990 and almost 40 million in 2000. DMC in 2000 was almost twice the value of 1980, thus showing no symptoms
of strong dematerialisation at all. In contrast, Spain locked itself into a technological pattern of increased use of
materials.
Secondly, weak dematerialisation did not take place in Spain either. While GDP increased by 74%, DMI
increased by 85%. As can be observed, DE, DMC and DMI followed the country’s economic cycles: stagnation in
the early eighties, followed by a cyclic expansion from 1985 to 1990, a halt from 1992 to 1995, after which a new
period of expansion began again. In other words, there are no signs of material consumption detaching from the
economic evolution. Figure 3 shows that direct material input (DMI) in
3
relation to GDP increased by approximately 6%.
In this sense, this trend does not follow the performance of other industrialised countries. In fact, previous
analyses have proven that in some industrialised countries a decoupling between GDP and material use took place
notwithstanding an increase in material flows in absolute terms (Adriaanse et al., 1997).
As regards the material flows between Spain and the rest of the world, exports grew faster than imports
throughout the whole period. As a matter of fact, they increased by 146% (from 37 to 92 million tons)
4
whereas imports increased by 124% (from 96 to 216 million tons). However, since imports weighed more than
twice the exports, net imports increased by 110% (Figure 4). This underlines the fact that the Spanish economy has
become more dependent on international trade. The analysis of these figures suggests that Spain is importing a large
amount of primary natural resources, which are characterised by high weight, low price and low added value. These
types of imports might also imply high levels of pollution and environmental degradation in the countries from
which these
materials are extracted (Muradian, O’Connor and Martínez-Alier, 2002). These
hypotheses are to be confirmed on further analyses.
Figure 3 DMI/GDP in Spain (1980–2000)
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Figure 4 Net imports for Spain (1980–2000)
3 Analysis by material groups
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3.1 Energy resources
This part of the analysis considers materials that are transformed for the purposes of energy. At the beginning of the
1980s most of the primary energy consumed was obtained from oil and coal, representing more than 90%. Between
1980 and 2000 the structure of energy production in Spain changed with the increase of other energy sources.
Nuclear power production began to rise in 1984, as well as natural gas at the end of the 1980s. In the year 2000,
coal and oil represented only 70%.
Renewable energy sources, including hydropower, have not been considered in the analysis below since they do
not imply material transformation. Nuclear power is not considered either, due to the relatively small amount of
mass needed to produce energy. Thus the analysis focuses on the use of fossil fuels, the most significant energy
sources in terms of mass. In this analysis three main categories of fuels are taken into account: coal, crude oil and
natural gas.
Coal represents the largest share of domestic extraction of energy resources in Spain. In fact, it accounts for
98% of total energy extraction in 2000. Spain has few oil and gas reserves, each source accounting for
approximately one percent of the total in 2000. Domestic extraction of energy resources has declined since the early
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1980s. This could be due to:
. • geographical displacement of energy production abroad (Muradian and MartínezAlier,
2001; Giljum and Eisenmenger, 2004)
. • improvements in energy efficiency
. • the substitution of coal by oil imports, gas and domestic nuclear power.
In the case of oil and natural gas, although new oil and gas deposits were discovered, domestic extraction decreased
(especially since 1990), due to the depletion of previous sites. In any case, the contribution of domestic oil and gas
to the total energy production is minimal.
Spain was and continues to be a net importer of energy. Fossil fuel imports have always been larger than
exports and they have increased over the period studied. More than 50% of total imports by weight were energy
carriers in 2000. Figure 5 shows the large, increasing share of energy carriers in total imports in per capita terms.
6
3.2 Biomass
Three main types of biomass are considered in this study: agriculture, forestry and fishing. Agriculture has
accounted for most of the biomass extraction throughout the period analysed. In 1995 a sharp decline of total
biomass extraction occurred due to the droughts in the winter of 1994/1995, which implied a strong decrease in
cereal and oil crop production. Overall, total extraction increased by 17% between 1980 and 2000 (from 86 to 101
million tons).
In 2000, 80% of total extraction of used biomass was constituted of agriculture and grazing. In this same year,
domestic extraction of agricultural products was headed by cereals, which represented 35% of the total crops. Roots
and tubers represented 26% and fruits accounted for another 25%.
Domestic extraction of biomass remained almost stable over the period, in contrast to energy and mineral
materials, as can be observed in Figure 5. Direct material input of biomass increased due to imports, which also
increased steadily during the period. Domestic material consumption of biomass increased in absolute terms and in
per capita terms (from 2.5 to 2.92 ton/capita) all along the analysed period, but the change in consumption in this
sector was smaller than it was for the mineral and energy ones. This
indicates that the increased use of materials and energy in Spain concomitant with economic growth has
certainly not been fulfilled by domestic or imported biomass.
Figure 5 DE, imports and exports per capita in Spain
(in tons/capita-year)
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3.3 Minerals
Minerals constitute the most important material group, with a higher proportion and higher growth rate. This is
mainly due to the dynamism of the construction sector, which experienced higher growth rates than the European
average (Común, Hernández and Llopis, 2002).
Mineral data were aggregated into three main categories: metal ores, industrial minerals and construction
minerals. Industrial minerals and construction minerals comprise non-metallic minerals. They are clearly
differentiated from metal ores. However, the difference between industrial and construction minerals is not clear-
cut. In this analysis, industrial minerals are classified as those that are not bulk materials for construction processes
(Figure 6).
Figure 6 Minerals DE (1980–2000)
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Domestic extraction (DE) of minerals experienced an overall increase during the period 1980 to 2000. In per capita
terms, DE grew from 4.85 to 9.83 ton/capita (Figure 5). It is important to point out that mineral DE trend in Spain is
dominated by construction minerals. Thus, both industrial minerals and metal ores accounted for 17% in 1980 and
only 5% in 2000 of the total amount of mineral DE. The construction sector shares of GDP and employment have
increased year after year, surpassing the European average.
As a result, domestic extraction of minerals in Spain has doubled in the last 20 years. From 1980 to 1985 it
remained approximately steady. In 1986, with economic recovery a period of increase in minerals extraction began.
The early 1990s showed an irregular pattern in minerals DE, although there was a slight increase from 1990 to
1996. In this period, even though Spain faced an economic downturn, the construction sector experienced a
dynamic boost due to two main events held in 1992: the Olympic Games in Barcelona and the World Exhibition in
Seville. The last period (1996–2000) also shows a steady rise in mineral DE.
As previously stated, the DE trend is dominated by the demand of construction minerals. However, industrial
minerals and metal ores followed a very different trend. While industrial minerals remained approximately steady
throughout the whole period of time considered, metal ores clearly declined, going from
16.32 MT in 1980 to only 1 MT in the year 2000. The decrease experienced by this sector is not related to any
economic crisis but to the structural change of the metal sector in Spain that began in the 1980s. During this period,
a number of mines and ironworks were shut down and, since then, extraction of metal ores in Spain has become
irrelevant.
An analysis of the data from mineral imports and exports for the period 1980 to 2000 shows that Spain shifts
from being a net exporter to being a net importer (Figure 7). Unlike in the case of DE, industrial minerals and metal
ores account for the majority of imports and exports in this sector. The main single contributors to imports
nowadays are iron and steel (as raw materials or in the form of processed goods). The imports of these materials
have more than doubled between 1980 and 2000, which is coherent with the decline of their domestic extraction.
We are again faced with the displacement of
environmental loads to other countries (Muradian, O’Connor and Martínez-Alier, 2002;
Muradian and Martínez-Alier, 2001; Giljum and Eisenmenger, 2004).
Figure 7 Minerals: exports and imports (1980–2000)
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Conclusions
A number of conclusions concerning the relationship between the Spanish economy and its surrounding
environment can be drawn from this analysis. Firstly, the Spanish economy has shown no signs of dematerialisation
in absolute terms. In contrast, the total mass of material moved by the Spanish economy (i.e. DMI = domestic
extraction plus direct material imports) increased by 85% from 1980 to 2000, whereas GDP increased by 74%.
Thus, Spain’s trend towards convergence of income per capita within the European Union is matched by its ‘race to
the top’ in terms of materials.
Secondly, domestic extraction (DE), consumption (DMC) and material input (DMI) in the economy has
evolved in line with the economic cycles. Therefore, there is no evidence of a decoupling trend between economic
growth and material use dematerialisation in relative terms.
Thirdly, the Spanish economy has become increasingly dependent on international trade. Imports are twice as
much as exports in terms of weight. In other words, Spain is using more and more natural resources from other
economic systems to increase its welfare-displacing environmental loads to poorer countries. The dependence on
energy imports has been a key characteristic of the Spanish economy. Also, metals that used to be domestically
produced are now imported.
As aforementioned, the quantitative analysis performed here does not deal with qualitative aspects of material
flows such as toxicity. In this sense, MFA should not be seen as a comprehensive assessment of the environmental
impact of an economy. However, it is clear that the increase in material flows reveals an increase in the
consumption of internal and external resources, some of them causing high environmental impacts during
extraction, transport, use or waste disposal.
Other environmental indicators show trends that are similar to the MFA. For example, CO
2 emissions rose
8
from 5.43 in 1980 to 7.64 metric tons CO2 per person in 2000, an increase of almost 40%. The importance of the construction sector in
material flows is
also seen in other indicators, such as the number of finished houses and flats constructed
9
per year, which underwent a 48% increase between 1990 and 2000. Probably, the importance of the construction sector would also be
shown by the comparatively rapid rates of soil sealing in Spain due to new transport infrastructures.
Therefore, this paper should be seen as one of the first attempts to analyse the Spanish economy in terms of
material use. Further improvements should be done by exploring the relationship between MFA and assessment of
environmental impacts. Definite conclusions on historical trends would need an analysis of broader historical data
as well as further evidence from socio-economic, political and technological disciplines that allow explaination of
the interrelated dynamics between material flows and the socioeconomic system.
Our finding that Spain has not reached a stage of ‘weak dematerialisation’ in 2000 should not be construed as
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agreement on our part to the use of environmental indicators based on intensive variables such as energy intensity
or carbon emissions intensity or volume of transport relative to GNP or indeed material intensity (material per unit
of GNP). The environment, so to speak, does not care about GNP.
Acknowledgments
We are grateful to Joan Martínez-Alier and Heinz Schandl for comments and to the Department of Social Ecology
of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Austrian Universities (IFF) for providing us with the methodology
used in this paper during the course ‘Material and Energy Flow Accounting’, held in Vienna in March 2002,
partially funded by the Integrated Action between the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and IFF under
the contract HU2000-0025.
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Notes
1 This metaphor is used to express that an economy is seen as an organism that takes resources from the outside and
discharges wastes.
2 TMR = direct material input + unused material extraction + indirect flows associated with imports.
3 GDP data obtained from OECD online statistical databases. www.oecd.org
4 The data on foreign trade comes from the Spanish Foreign Trade Statistics. Estadística del Comercio Exterior de España.
Volumen I: comercio por países y por productos, published by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Finance. Years
1986–2000.
5 The data on energy are taken from the Spanish National Statistics: La Energía en España, 2002.
6 All data used to calculate biomass flow through Spanish economy have been obtained from FAO statistics (FAOSTAT.
Agriculture Database, 1980–2000), verified and compared with national data published by the Spanish Ministry of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Anuario de Estadística Agroalimentaria).
7 Data used for the mineral fraction of the MFA have been taken from the Spanish National Statistics: Estadística Minera de
España, published by the Ministry of Industry and Energy (MINER) for the period 1980 to 1998, and by the Ministry of
Economy (MINECO) for 1999 and 2000.
8 Emissions per capita have been calculated using Total Emissions of CO
2 (excluding land-use). World Resources Institute
(2003), Carbon Emissions from Energy Use and Cement Manufacturing, 1850 to 2000. Available online through the
Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) at http://cait.wri.org. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.
9 Anuario Estadístico de España. Instituto Nacional de Estadística (Spanish Institute of Statistics). Available online at
http://www.ine.es.
... DMI in Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru 1980-2000 (million tonnes) Source:Giljum 2004, Vallejo 2006, González-Martínez 2007, Silva-Macher 2007 Chilean DMI rose from 186 million tonnes in 1980 to 700 million tonnes in 2000. ...
... Fossil fuels Other industrial productsSource: Own calculations with data fromGiljum 2004, Vallejo 2006, González-Martínez 2007, and Silva-Macher 2007 Chile was a significant net exporter of minerals and biomass at the beginning of the analyzed period. In Chile, even though the government carried out a policy of export diversification, in 2000 exports were still largely dominated by copper and other mining products (52% in terms of weight). ...
... Price per exported and imported tonne in Chile, Ecuador, Source: Own calculations with data fromGiljum 2004, Vallejo 2006, González-Martínez 2007, Silva-Macher 2007 and UN 2007 It is interesting to compare these Latin American data with European trends, where a reverse situation can be observed. In 2000, the EU-15 imported 3.4 times more materials than it exported, whereas the monetary trade balance was approximately balanced(Eurostat 2002). ...
... "Environmental load displacement" from the North to the South has been observed and analyzed in many studies (Muradian et al. 2002;Giljum and Eisenmenger 2004). In this way, the industrial countries shift their environmental impacts to southern or less developed regions, in order to accomplish the decoupling (refers to an economy that grows without any increased pressure on the environment) (Cañellas et al. 2004;Giljum 2004). ...
Chapter
Degrowth is an equitable downscaling of production and consumption is considered in such a way that it increases human welfare and also leads to the improvement of ecological conditions at the regional and global levels in the long term. The idea of degrowth arose in response to three environmental, social, and economic crises.
... "Environmental load displacement" from the North to the South has been observed and analyzed in many studies (Muradian et al. 2002;Giljum and Eisenmenger 2004). In this way, the industrial countries shift their environmental impacts to southern or less developed regions, in order to accomplish the decoupling (refers to an economy that grows without any increased pressure on the environment) (Cañellas et al. 2004;Giljum 2004). ...
Chapter
Note: As a reference work, please avoid first-person usage in the writing of your contribution. Please refer to the Guidelines for Authors for more details. Economic degrowth and ecological sustainability Definitions Degrowth is an equitable downscaling of production and consumption is considered in such a way that it increases human welfare and also leads to the improvement of ecological conditions at the regional and global levels in the long term. The idea of degrowth arose in response to three environmental, social, and economic crises.
... It is known that MFA results are influenced by the method used and the quality of the collected data (Fischer--Kowalski et al. 2011;Statistics Austria 2009). Although it is often stated that uncertainty analysis should be included in all descriptive MFA case studies [quantification of material balance in a specific region], the majority of studies do not address the measurement errors associated with the databases, or with the applied model (e.g.: Hammer et al. 2003a;Cañellas et al. 2004;Browne et al. 2011). When addressed, these errors are often commented on in qualitative terms or as an expert judgment. ...
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Material flow analysis (MFA) is a tool for research and decision support in environmental policy and management. In order to promote the use of MFA at different spatial scales, a quantification of the uncertainty in nationwide, regional, and urban MFA methodologies is provided. In particular, the impact of the input data quality on the main MFA indicators is analyzed and the sources and extent of uncertainties for different spatial scales are listed. The types, origin, and extent of the errors are described in detail and several imputation methods are explained and evaluated. By introducing a novel approach to account measurement errors in data sets with “very few details on the measurement errors,” this article aims at contributing to the development of a standardized method to account for the uncertainty in MFA studies. This study uses the time series of MFA data for 1996–2011 at three spatial scales—nationwide (Sweden), regional (the Stockholm Region), and metropolitan (Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo)—to determine how propagation of measurement errors affects the MFA results. The following MFA indicators were studied: direct material input; domestic processed output; and domestic material consumption. Generally, availability decreased as the spatial scale was lowered, whereas data errors increased. In the specific case of Sweden, the data on freight transport by rail and on waste produced by economic activities at the regional and metropolitan level should be improved.
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In response to urban challenges created by global climate change, nature based solutions (NBS) are accepted as viable sustainability solutions that provide environmental, economic, and social benefits. In order to mainstream NBS projects and secure necessary funding, an evidence-based approach, supported by performance indicators, is necessary for planning and deployment stages. The main aim of this article is to establish an assessment framework, which fosters the urban planning and implementation periods of NBS projects and forms a linkage between adaptation actions with urban sustainability policies by making use of monitoring data that enables predictive estimation of future scenarios. This framework entails definition of relevant environmental indicators through a material flow analysis (MFA)-based urban metabolism (UM) approach and a proposal for the dynamic application of these indicators to be used for monitoring purposes. While the environmental assessment framework supports selection of most suitable NBS to tackle urban challenge of concern, the dynamic performance tracking provides critical, strategic and analytical insights to ensure the desired targets are met. Such an assessment methodology can also maximize the contribution of NBS to EU policies including European Green Deal (EGD), EU Biodiversity Strategy and EU Adaptation Strategy.
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Strategies toward ambitious climate targets usually rely on the concept of “decoupling”; that is, they aim at promoting economic growth while reducing the use of natural resources and GHG emissions. GDP growth coinciding with absolute reductions in emissions or resource use is denoted as “absolute decoupling”, as opposed to “relative decoupling”, where resource use or emissions increase less so than does GDP. Based on the bibliometric mapping in part I (Wiedenhofer et al., this issue), we synthesize the evidence emerging from the selected 835 peer-reviewed articles. We evaluate empirical studies of decoupling related to final/useful energy, exergy, use of material resources, as well as CO2 and total GHG emissions. We find that relative decoupling is frequent for material use as well as GHG and CO2 emissions but not for useful exergy, a quality-based measure of energy use. Primary energy can be decoupled from GDP largely to the extent to which the conversion of primary energy to useful exergy is improved. Examples of absolute long-term decoupling are rare, but recently some industrialized countries have decoupled GDP from both production- and, weaklier, consumption-based CO2 emissions. We analyze policies or strategies in the decoupling literature by classifying them into three groups: (1) Green growth, if sufficient reductions of resource use or emissions were deemed possible without altering the growth trajectory. (2) Degrowth, if reductions of resource use or emissions were given priority over GDP growth. (3) Others, e.g. if the role of energy for GDP growth was analyzed without reference to climate change mitigation. We conclude that large rapid absolute reductions of resource use and GHG emissions cannot be achieved through observed decoupling rates, hence decoupling needs to be complemented by sufficiency-oriented strategies and strict enforcement of absolute reduction targets. More research is needed on interdependencies between wellbeing, resources and emissions.
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Los economistas ecológicos (p.ej.: Herman Daly) dicen que el desarrollo sostenible solo puede alcanzarse mediante un drástico cambio en nuestro sistema económico basado en el crecimiento. El crecimiento económico continuo siendo éste el objetivo de cualquier gobierno, es inherentemente incompatible con el desarrollo sostenible, a menos que el desarrollo sostenible sea definido de forma débil; es decir aceptando sustituibilidad entre capital producido por el hombre y capital natural. Esto ya se lleva actualmente a cabo por la teoría económica neoclásica, las raíces de la cual se encuentran en el concepto del valor, análogo al principio de conservación de la mecánica clásica. Algunos autores esgrimen que es este concepto del valor, combinado con la panacea del progreso tecnológico, lo que permite a la teoría económica neoclásica creer en un crecimiento económico ilimitado.ABSTRACTEcological Economists (e.g.: Herman Daly) claim that sustainable development can only be achieved by drastically changing our growth based economic system. Continuous economic growth, which is the goal of every government, is inherently incompatible with sustainable development, unless sustainable development is defined in a weak sense; that is as accepting substitutability between human made and natural capital. This is currently done by neoclassical economic theory, the roots of which are based on a value concept, analogous with the conservation principle of classical mechanics. Some authors argue that it is this value concept combined with the panacea of technological progress, which allows neoclassical economic theory to believe in unlimited economic growth.
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It is of significant importance to evaluate energy consumption and to optimize configuration of energy utilization in process systems. A comprehensive approach based on material flow analysis (MFA) and exergy flow analysis (EFA) is proposed to evaluate energy consumption and integrate energy utilization of a process system, in which energy-consuming devices and exothermic devices exist simultaneously. By using the proposed approach, the energy consumption of streams in the process system is evaluated by energy consumption distribution, and the energy efficiency of the system is improved by both the improvement of local sub-systems and the integration of energy utilization of the entire system. A natural gas purification plant with a processing capacity of 200 × 104 m3/d is taken as the case study to demonstrate the detailed implementation of the proposed approach. Results show that the streams with high energy consumption intensity are indicators of energy-intensive sub-systems, and energy conservation of these sub-systems can dramatically reduce the energy consumption of the system. In this case study, after the process improvement, the energy consumption of the desulfurization sub-system reduces by 9.62%, and the energy consumption of the exhaust gas treatment sub-system reduces by 21.02%. Furthermore, after the integration of heat exchange network of the entire system, the energy consumption of the system reduces by 2.16 × 105 kW. By these from the part to the whole strategies, the total energy-saving can reach 1.07 × 106 kW in the system. The proposed approach can be used for effectively identifying the bottlenecks of the energy consumption and improving the energy utilization of process systems.
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In this article, we inquire into the intellectual history of the application of the biological concept of metabolism to social systems - not as a metaphor, but as a material and energetic process within the economy and society, vis-àvis various natural systems.The paper reviews several scientific traditions that may contribute to such a view, including biology and ecology, social theory, cultural anthropology, and social geography. It assembles widely scattered approaches dating from the 1860s onward and shows how they prepare the ground for the pioneers of "industrial metabolism" in the late 1960s. In connection to varying political perspectives, metabolism gradually takes shape as a powerful interdisciplinary concept. It will take another 25 years before this approach becomes one of the most important paradigms for the empirical analysis of the society-nature-interaction across various disciplines. This later period will be the subject of part II of this literature review.
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Part I (1860-1970) In this essay, we inquire into the intellectual history of the application of the biological concept metabolism to social systems - not as a metaphor, but as a material and energetic process within economy and society, vis-a-vis various natural systems.The paper reviews several scientific traditions that may contribute to such a view, such as biology and ecology, social theory, cultural anthropology and social geography. It assembles the widely scattered approaches from the 1860s onwards and shows how they prepare the ground for the pioneers of „industrial metabolism“ in the late 1960s. In connection to varying political perspectives, metabolism gradually takes shape as a powerful interdisciplinary concept. It will take another twenty-five years before this approach turns into one of the most important paradigms for the empirical analysis of society-nature-interaction, across various disciplines. This later period will be the subject of a second part of this literature review.
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In the last 20 years, the implications of international trade for environmental distribution between North and South gained increasing attention in the debate on sustainable development. In this article, the authors take a biophysical perspective to analyze the distribution of environmental goods versus environmental burdens in North-South trade relations. Studies based on physical accounting are particularly suitable to elucidate environmental consequences of economic specialization processes in different world regions, as they clarify implications for both the use of natural resources and the generation of waste and of emissions in a coherent and comprehensive manner. Empirical evidence from biophysical accounting studies suggests that the formation of specific metabolic profiles of societies in the North and in the South, as a consequence of economic specialization, leads to an unequal environmental distribution. The article closes with an evaluation of policy measures and instruments appropriate for reducing negative environmental consequences of North-South trade.
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We bring the rapidly developing tools for analyzing society's metabolism to the attention of a scientific audience concerned with matters of population and, in a complementary fashion, we draw the attention of material and energy flow analysts to the role of population and population dynamics within their own paradigm. As an analytic framework, we use the classic IPAT-model that relates environmental impact (I), population (P), affluence (A), and technology (T). We relate the IPAT model to the tool commonly used in MFA, so-called environmental Kuznets curves, and re-analyze empirical data from various sources, for both affluent industrial and for developing countries, within these frameworks. We conclude that population and technology seem to dominate over affluence as far as environmental impact is concerned, but that both the IPAT and Kuznets models fail to take into account the intricate interdependencies among different socio-economic systems and the increases in their the economic, material and population exchanges. In effect, both models tend to underestimate the environmental impact and create too optimistic an image of dematerialization in affluent industrial countries.
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The present paper sets out to aid in the development of ‘environmental load displacement’ indicators. Developing the notion of the ‘environmental memory’ of physical flows, we estimated embodied pollution in trade of 18 industrialized countries with (a) the rest of the world and (b) developing countries, from 1976 to 1994. We found that in the last years of analysis, total imports of Japan, USA and Western Europe have entailed, in general, larger air pollutant emissions than local exports. The balance of embodied emissions in trade (BEET) seems to follow an inverted-U shape across time in Japan and Western Europe, and an N-shape in the US. In the period of analysis, Japanese and European environmental terms of trade with developing countries ‘improved’ (from the Japanese and European point of view), whereas American environmental terms of trade with developing countries ‘deteriorated’ over time. Although there is no statistical trend between income and embodied emissions in imports in a cross-section analysis, there does seem to be a positive relationship between both variables at a national level. The results suggest that, despite many shortcomings, this type of assessment may shed useful insights on the international aspects of sustainable development.
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The relationship between free trade and the environment is one of the main issues of contention between environmental and ecological economics. Environmental economics assumes a positive relationship between free trade, economic growth and environmental policies. Environmental externalities may cause important damage. However, trade is not to be blamed for this. Instead, the fault lies with policy inadequacies at the national level. On the other hand, some ecological economists criticise the assumptions of environmental economics, especially the immobility of production factors and the positive correlation between income and environmental quality. They plead for measures to prevent deterioration of ‘Northern’ environmental standards in a ‘race to the bottom’ due to ‘ecological dumping” from the South. In this paper, we argue that neither environmental economics nor ‘Northern’ ecological economics take into account the structural conditions determining the international trade system. Based on some new empirical evidence on material flows, we stress the notion of environmental cost-shifting. If physical and political ecology perspectives are adopted, a ‘Southern’ approach to the trade-and-environment issue may arise.
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Dirección general de política energética y minas (general direction of energetic policy and mines), secretaria de estado de energia desarrollo industrial y de la pequeña y mediana empresaDirección general de política energética y minas (general direction of energetic policy and mines)
  • Spanish National
Spanish National Statistics: La Energía en España (2002) ‘Dirección general de política energética y minas (general direction of energetic policy and mines), secretaria de estado de energia desarrollo industrial y de la pequeña y mediana empresa’, Ministry of Economy, Spain, 2003. r27/2005 – UHE/UAB – 17.01.2005 Bibliography Spanish National Statistics: La energía en España (2001) ‘Dirección general de política energética y minas (general direction of energetic policy and mines)’, Ministry of Economy, Spain
Embodied pollution in trade: estimating the ‘environmental load displacement’ of industrialised countriesEnvironmental kuznets curves - real progress or passing the buck? A case for consumption-based approachesMaterialflussrechnung für Österreich 1960 bis 1997
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Muradian, R., O’Connor, M. and Martínez-Alier, J. (2002) ‘Embodied pollution in trade: estimating the ‘environmental load displacement’ of industrialised countries’, Ecological Economics, Vol. 41, pp.51–67. Rothman, D.S. (1998) ‘Environmental kuznets curves - real progress or passing the buck? A case for consumption-based approaches’, Ecological Economics, Vol. 25, pp.177–194. Schandl, H., Weisz, H. and Petrovic, B. (2000) ‘Materialflussrechnung für Österreich 1960 bis 1997’, Statistische Nachrichten, Vol. 55, No. 2, pp.128–137
Materialflussrechnung für Österreich
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Schandl, H., Weisz, H. and Petrovic, B. (2000) 'Materialflussrechnung für Österreich 1960 bis 1997', Statistische Nachrichten, Vol. 55, No. 2, pp.128–137.