Inverse relative decoupling

Green Growth supposedly ‘decouples’ economic growth from resource consumption and/or environmental impacts. Decoupling can be relative (when rates of economic growth are higher than the growth rates of consumption or emissions) or absolute (when consumption or emissions fall in absolute terms even as the economy continues to grow). The idea is depicted in the above hypothetical graph.

Empirical evidence so far points only to relative decoupling of energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. There has been no absolute decoupling on a global scale as you can see from the next graph.

The situation for material resource decoupling is even worse. In fact, there is an inverse decoupling occurring between global economic growth and material footprint. The global material footprint grows faster than the global economy as you can see from the next graph.

Data sources for the graphs:

  • WB:
  • BP:
  • OECD:

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