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Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development

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Continuation along current development pathways is not sustainable. Current technologies and production practices and the consumption patterns of modern societies are leading to global warming and ecological destruction. Continuing down this road will put humanity on a collision course with planet Earth. A massive shift towards green technologies and sustainable production practices will be needed in order to secure decent livelihoods for present and future generations of humankind. In Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development, renowned experts provide a variety of insights about feasible pathways for the required technological transformations. They spell out the behavioural and policy changes that would need to accompany the next green technological revolution, as well as the complexities of undoing locked in technologies and infrastructure in energy systems and agricultural value chains. They conclude that it can all be done, but not without much improved national innovation systems and drastic shifts in incentives and regulatory frameworks to induce the necessary shifts in public and private investment patterns. The macroeconomic costs, they contend, are quite affordable for societies worldwide.

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Historical characteristics and scenario analysis of technological change in the energy system

Technological change is widely recognized as the main driver of long-term economic growth (Solow, 1957) and of development in general (Freeman and Perez, 1988). Contrasting perspectives persist on the relationship between technological, institutional, and social change. “Technological determinism” depicts technology as the main agent of change. “Social constructivism” depicts the shaping of the technological landscape by social forces. The perspective of this chapter is that these dichotomies cloud complex interdependencies. Technologies and their institutional and social settings coevolve. Change in these different arenas is mutually dependent, mutually enhancing, mutually dampening. Regardless of these particular perspectives, scholars agree on the importance of technological change in historical energy transitions and on future scenarios of energy system transformation (Grubler, 1998; Nakicenovic et al., 2000; Smil, 2003; Halsnæs et al., 2007).

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