8.5 Areas for further research

Integrated Product Policy

At least four issues invoked in this book would benefit from further research, and at the same time such research would be beneficial for the IPP.

  1. At the most general and abstract level, further research is necessary regard­ing the issue of human ignorance regarding economy-environment interac­tions. Further investigation in this area can reduce this ignorance; however, we shall probably never be able to eradicate it altogether. Even the extent to which it can be explained remains unknown, purely because we do not know what we do not know. Therefore, a theory of ignorance needs to be formalized so that the issue can be incorporated into future environmental policies.
  2. At a more specific, yet still general level, the so-called environment-versus ­jobs dilemma needs to be addressed. The opponents of strict environmental policy fear that a higher degree of protection, especially leading to reduced material consumption, would reduce the number of jobs and eventually lead to economic stagnation. Too little research has been carried out in this area so far, but some insights can be gleaned from the observation of the techno­logical revolution. As a result of technological development, not only have many jobs been lost, but so have many professions. However, there have been few complaints as, in spite of some negative impacts, technological development has created jobs in other areas and, primarily, directly trans­lated into an improved quality of life for the majority of people in the rele­vant countries. Probably, then, the main reason for opposing stricter environmental regulations resides in the fact that the link between human well-being and a clean environment is not as obvious as that between well-being and technological development. Thus, this issue relates to a wider problem of how we measure the well-being of people and the level of devel­opment of countries.
  3. The next issue is related to the instruments of product-oriented environ­mental policies, the detailed analysis of which would have been beyond the scope of this volume. To some extent, this links to the previous issue, as one can try to assess the impacts each instrument would have on the situation on the labour market, and consequently on the overall state of the economy. For example, although under the traditional regime of environmental protec­tion, instruments were targeted at producers, consumers also ultimately bore the costs associated with them, as they had to pay higher prices. However, most often they did not protest, as they may have been unaware of this link. Would this situation change under the new regime, when consumers are made directly responsible for the environmental degradation associated with their consumption (as a result of product charges or ecological fiscal reform)?
  4. Finally, at the most specific level, further research is needed regarding the extension of the hybrid LCA framework with qualitative systems analysis, so as to allow for assessments of the whole systems within which products operate. Such an extended LCA should make it possible to analyse issues such as infrastructural and cultural changes in our societies. Also, it is necessary to study the impacts of LCA -based policies on the flows of goods within international supply chains.