In this logic, the massive development of new technologies would be able to meet the needs of present and future generations. The spread of the concept of sustainable development therefore promotes the development of new technologies favorable to the environment.
The political and economic recommendations which followed from the principle of sustainable development have promoted research and development of new technologies serving the environment: new processes and new green products.
Producing for the environment
Two processes generally make it possible to reduce the environmental impacts resulting from production according to whether they occur at the end – added technologies ( end of pipe ) – or during the production process – integrated production technologies ( cleaner production ). These two types of technologies have beneficial but contrasting effects on the environment in the short and long term.
Added technologies: a curative approach serving the environment
The added technologies, such as filters used for desulfurization, are designed to reduce emissions of harmful substances that are by-products of production. They therefore consist in implementing additive technologies making it possible to limit polluting emissions.
They are based on installations and equipment designed to fight against pollution, and special anti-pollution accessories (mainly equipment) at the end of the cycle. They are not directly linked to the production process, but are additive technologies used to comply in particular with the environmental standards required by regulations. Typical incineration technologies are incineration plants for waste disposal, sewage treatment plants for water protection and acoustic absorbers for noise reduction.
Confronted with the implementation of increasing environmental regulations, firms often opt, in a logic of short-term savings, for this strategy of rapid adaptation to production conditions. It is less risky than trying to completely replace the existing production process and lose a well-established market position. Coal sector companies use this type of technology to limit the environmental impact of coal-fired power plants, which emit carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2).
To reduce emissions, there are two technologies “at the end of the chain”. The first consists of installing filters at the end of the chimneys, in order to ensure the capture of sulfur emissions and limit acid rain. The second is based on carbon capture and storage (CCS). After the capture step, the CO2 is transported and stored in a geological reservoir, buried deep underground. This strategy is expressed both at the corporate level and at the international level. Donald Trump’s United States is promoting “clean coal”.
Conversely, China is seeking to initiate a deep energy transition by shutting down its many coal-fired power stations, by developing integrated technologies, which radically transform production processes.
Integrated technologies for the environment
Integrated technologies reduce resource use and / or pollution at source by using cleaner production methods. They thus generally lead to the reduction of by-products, energy inputs and resources exploited by companies to produce goods.
Integrated production technologies reduce the negative effects on the environment at source by substituting or modifying cleaner technologies for less clean technologies. The re-circulation of materials, the use of environmentally friendly materials (such as replacing organic solvents with water) are examples of integrated or cleaner production technologies.
The implementation of integrated production technologies is however often hampered by obstacles linked to problems of cost, coordination and inertia of skills and to the productive organization of companies. In addition to the high investment costs in new integrated technologies, additional obstacles may emerge depending on the nature of the environmental problem and the type of environmental regulation in question. For example, imposing technological standards that can only be met by added technologies.
The spread of cleaner production technologies
With particular regard to the dissemination of clean production technologies, attention should be paid to the respective effectiveness of the instruments and the degree of severity of environmental policy. Product, emission or tax standards are considered rigid instruments. On the contrary, the establishment of markets for pollution rights leaves it to the company to decide on appropriate technologies. One of the choices made by the European Union to achieve its greenhouse gas emissions targets is the establishment of a market for rights to tight.
Companies frequently hope that innovations will offset, or reduce, the costs of environmental regulations. Reducing costs, increasing competitiveness, creating new markets for environmentally friendly products and processes, positive effects on employment, etc. are seen as potential benefits of a policy. environment favorable to innovation.
However, these benefits seem to be easier to achieve with cleaner products and production technologies than with added technologies. The latter already fulfill, by definition, mainly environmental protection functions.
New technologies for green products
For many products such as motor vehicles with combustion engines, life cycle analysis ( via standards such as ISO 14040) has shown that the major environmental impact is linked to their use (fuel consumption and emissions CO2) and their elimination (heavy metals in batteries) rather than their production.
Therefore, green products can reduce the negative effects on the environment throughout their life cycle. This can go through the reduction of toxic substances and materials in the composition of products, the reduction of energy consumption and polluting emissions. Or even by an extended phase of use and recycling practices.
Companies – like nations – can have an environmental improvement strategy for their products to differentiate them from those of others and thus gain a competitive advantage. However, many consumers are reluctant to pay higher prices or trade other product qualities just for their ecological attributes. Studies suggest that green products that produce a private environmental benefit to the customer, in addition to that for the community at large, will generate higher demand from consumers.
The sources of these benefits are varied. They can come from cost savings and energy consumption thanks to increased device efficiency. Better quality, improved durability and new repair possibilities should also be mentioned. It is therefore foreseeable that companies will focus their clean technology investment efforts on product improvement as well as on environmental issues likely to benefit the customer.
There is therefore a strong complement between new production technologies – whether integrated or added – and new green products, as well as with new modes of organization that are more respectful of the environment.
New production methods
New technologies serving the environment go hand in hand with the development of new production methods, a transition to new business economic models and the strengthening of circular economy logic.
The circular economy model aims to ensure that goods and services are produced while limiting the consumption and waste of raw materials, water and energy sources.
In terms of organizational and environmental practices, such methods involve:
- improved “waste prevention”, that is, action before waste is produced;
- a set of measures taken in the design, distribution and consumption of the good;
- and management of this waste which would inject it into the economic cycle, by promoting reuse and recycling.
The positive effects on the environment of this type of production method are numerous and notable. One of the major implications comes from the fact that this type of model makes it possible to gradually decouple economic growth from consumption of raw materials.
Also Read – Environmental Science Sustainability Quizlet