Economic growth without increasing environmental pressures

Long-term progress:
Pressures on the environment have long been closely linked to economic growth. In the last two decades, however, there has been a clear increase in eco-efficiency.
Short-term progress:
In recent years, there have been signs of decreasing pressure on the environment despite economic growth.
Progress in relation to targets:

Trends in gross domestic product, total energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and total material requirement in 1975–2013

Trends in gross domestic product, total energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and total material requirement
Source: Statistics Finland. 2015.

There is a strong connection between gross domestic product and human-induced pressures on the environment. Energy consumption, transport and use of natural resources, in particular, are closely linked to economic trends. GDP forecasts are also used as the most important basis for predictions on future traffic volumes and energy requirements.

Enhancing eco-efficiency has long been an environmental policy objective. To achieve this would involve decoupling natural resource use from gross domestic product. Eco-efficiency means producing more goods and services while using smaller amounts of natural resources and creating less emissions.

Finland’s gross domestic product has increased at a faster rate than energy consumption, use of natural resources, and the generation of carbon dioxide emissions. There has been a particularly clear increase in eco-efficiency since the mid-1990s. In fact, the environmental impact has in some respects even decreased, despite almost continuous economic growth.

The question of whether or not economic growth actually enhances wellbeing has also been debated in recent years, and several indicators have been proposed to supplement GDP. They would take account of issues such as changes in environmental impact and in economic inequality.

Sources:

  • Statistics Finland. 2015.
  • Lyytimäki J., Rinne J. & Ahrelma R-R. (eds.). Ympäristönsuojelun vaikuttavuus: Indikaattorit 2012. Finnish Environment Institute. 2012
Published 2015-09-01 at 12:00, updated 2015-10-14 at 14:52