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Improving industry efficiency through environmental innovations

Innovations and the Environment provides strong evidence that companies can reduce emissions at socially acceptable costs. The author, Yoram Krozer, General Director of the Cartesius Institute (the Dutch technical universities' Institute for Sustainable Innovations), shows that the technology exists to attain a far-reaching, emissions-reduction percentage--as much as 70 to 95 percent--if that is what is demanded by policy-makers and market interests.

Using statistical data on acidifying emissions to air and discharges of biodegradable matter to water from refineries, chemical industries, basic metal industries and electric power plants, Krozer highlights that emissions decrease as efficiency increases. In three to ten years, pollution is reduced by 65 to 85 percent and the costs per unit emission have been cut in half.

This change is possible by adapting available technologies, due to companies' increasing experience in the use of such technologies. Environmental innovations provide substantial cost reductions and can contribute to corporate results through energy-saving, decreased material use and better product quality. However, companies must invest in the innovations before the enforcement of environmental policy. This anticipation strategy is risky because it remains uncertain whether strict policy demands will be implemented and whether or not the companies have the capabilities to innovate.

Innovations can be invoked by strict environmental demands. A short lead-time in policy preparation and rapid enforcement are needed because uncertainties about demands and laborious enforcement are deadly for innovations' profitability. Innovations can also be promoted through negotiations among stakeholders if harmed interests obtain legal instruments to assure that their demands be enforced.

The European Union's present environmental policy discourages innovations because it promotes available technologies that have been used in the past. Analyses of technology databases used in EU policy-making reveal that this policy is unable to attain sufficient emissions reduction and that the so-called Best Available Technologies often encourage inefficient technologies of the past. Policies that embark on environmental innovations and adaptations reduce emissions down to levels that do not preclude sustainable environmental qualities. They do this at a cost that barely increases and may even bring about cost savings in many cases.

Krozer's book was presented to the Netherlands' Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs. Jacqueline Cramer. The Minister has said she agrees with the book's main conclusions. In her reaction, she concluded "You argue that environmental policy needs shocks. History has proved it. You also argue that taxation on pollution can lead to pollution reduction but this is not the driver of changes. History has shown it, as well. You can clean up as much as you wish. The persistent problems remain. You find that major uncertainties should be taken away. I support this view. My vision is systematic increase of the possibilities for sustainable development that embraces ecology, economy and the social-ethical values."

This book will interest researchers, managers, organisations and policy-makers on the national and regional level.


Contact: Joan Robinson

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