Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Göteborg Papers in Economic History,
University of Gothenburg, Department of Economic History

No 15: Economic Growth and Clean Water in the Göta River - A Pilot Study of Collective Action and the Environmental Kuznets Curve 1895-2000

Staffan Granér () and Klas Rönnbäck ()
Additional contact information
Staffan Granér: Department of Economic History, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Postal: Box 720, SE 40530 Göteborg, Sweden
Klas Rönnbäck: Department of Economic History, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Postal: Box 720, SE 40530 Göteborg, Sweden

Abstract: Because of a growing population and industrialization, total pollution levels in many water-courses around the world have increased considerably for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In the last few decades, however, the trend of increasing water pollution has been turned in many industrialized countries, delinking economic growth from environmental pollution. This is in essence one aspect of what many environmental economists call an ‘environmental Kuznets curve’. The research question of this project is why there is such a pattern to water quality in many countries? Much previous literature on the topic studies only the positive impact of environmental legislation. This study, focusing upon the case of the river Göta in Sweden, undertakes a more thorough analysis, including other crucial factors as well such as industrial transformation and decline, as well as stakeholder associations. The project utilizes a very long series of data on the water quality in the river Göta, covering more than 100 years of data for crucial indicators, in order to establish what factors were contributing to reducing levels of pollution. Analyzing the driving factors of this ‘Environmental Kuznets Curve’ can give us crucial insights into how a sustainable development might be achieved in the future.

Keywords: Economic History; Environmental history; Environmental pollution; Water quality; Environmental Kuznets curve; Sweden; Göta älv

JEL-codes: N53; N54; N73; N74; Q25; Q28; Q57

55 pages, October 3, 2011

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