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Sustainability 2014, 6(10), 6729-6750; doi:10.3390/su6106729

Decoupling Economic Growth and Environmental Degradation: Reviewing Progress to Date in the Small Island State of Malta

Institute of Earth Systems, University of Malta, Msida MSD 2080, Malta
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Received: 29 May 2014 / Revised: 9 September 2014 / Accepted: 12 September 2014 / Published: 29 September 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environment in Sustainable Development)
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Abstract

This paper considers the challenge of decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation; in contrast to several large-scale cross-country analyses that focus on limited indicators of environmental degradation, we analyze in some depth the experience of a single small-scale island state setting (Malta). We use available statistical data to derive decoupling factors, in order to consider the extent to which decoupling has been achieved in four sectors: (i) energy intensity, climate change, and air quality; (ii) water; (iii) waste; and (iv) land. Results indicate relative decoupling between economic growth and several indicators considered, and to a lesser extent, relative decoupling between population growth and the same indicators of environmental pressure. Absolute decoupling has been achieved in at least one instance but there has been no decoupling of land development from either economic or population growth. Land use and population thus appear to be notable sources of pressure. The results suggest that decoupling analyses that present environmental degradation in terms of single variables (e.g., carbon emissions) may misrepresent somewhat the state of the environment at local level. Furthermore, the study highlights the need for methodologies that factor in the “embedding” of small-scale settings within much larger trade networks, for a more accurate estimation of environmental impact, and points to some limitations of solely quantitative analyses of environment-ecology relationships. View Full-Text
Keywords: decoupling; small island state; Malta decoupling; small island state; Malta
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Conrad, E.; Cassar, L.F. Decoupling Economic Growth and Environmental Degradation: Reviewing Progress to Date in the Small Island State of Malta. Sustainability 2014, 6, 6729-6750.

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