If the present standard of living in the developed countries is to be maintained, and the developing world is to meet its basic needs without further ecological degradation, environmentally friendly innovations are needed. Innovation policy can therefore be considered a key arena for environmental policy to achieve sustainable development. But what characterizes sustainable innovation and how can innovation policies be governed to promote sustainable development?
By cross tabulating OECD’s notion of decoupling, and the concept of eco-efficiency introduced by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the thesis suggests a fourfold typology indicating how the notion of “green innovation” spans from traditional end-of pipe approaches to innovation promoting sustainable development. The typology explains that there exists an implied, but not adequately expressed, presumption that decoupling involves recoupling. It is important to explain the implications of not only disconnecting drivers from pressures on natural resources and eco-systems, but also of finding ways (or not) of surplus-generating development. Furthermore, the typology challenge the assumption that end-of-pipe initiatives require no compensatory growth-maintaining initiatives; or, that achieving eco-efficiency is the same as achieving eco-effectiveness.
The thesis then moves on to evaluate the extent to which Norwegian environmental and innovation policies are integrated and furthermore to evaluate the extent to which such initiatives actually promote sustainable development. The evaluation is based on the concept of Environmental Policy integration (EPI). Policy initiatives by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and the Ministry of Environment are evaluated. The findings indicate that Norwegian environmental and innovation policies are only integrated to a very little extent. There is virtually no horizontal coordination of innovation and environmental policies. The vertical integration I have been able to detect is found in the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, not the Ministry of Trade and Industry, responsible for the innovation policy. Furthermore, very few of the green innovation policy initiatives in place actually promote sustainable development.
Finally, the thesis draws some lines on how a green innovation policy for SD can be designed, and discusses the implications of the findings of the thesis for the broader debate on governance for sustainable development.