When Bioeconomy Policy Objectives (Fail To) Overlap: Rethinking the analysis of necessity to detect causal interdependencies among sustainable development goals in the Nordic bioeconomy strategy

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Biomass is becoming a viable substitute for oil and petrochemicals within many industries as concerns over climate change deepen. But does novel biomass utilization enable countries to pursue other important policy objectives simultaneously with climate change mitigation? Theoretical answers to this question vary. Ecological modernization theory assumes that environmental and economic objectives are compatible or even mutually reinforcing, while degrowth theory calls our attention to potential trade-offs and compromises. The purpose of this paper is to probe whether set-theoretic methods offer new insights for this debate. The context of this study is the Nordic bioeconomy. In a sample of 82 cases of biomass utilization within the electricity, fuels, chemicals, and textile fiber industries, eight cases contribute to all core objectives in the Nordic bioeconomy strategy thus supporting ecological modernization theory’s claim about compatibility. However, the analysis of necessity suggests that the policy objectives are not mutually reinforcing. The remaining 74 cases in the sample fail to contribute to either economic, social or environmental objectives. This indicates that degrowth theory’s attention to compromises is also justified, although the analysis of necessity suggests that there are no systematic trade-offs. Thus, while both theoretical frameworks find empirical support, neither is able to fully capture the complexity of the bioeconomy transition
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCompasss.org
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2019
SeriesCompasss Working Papers
Number2019-93

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