Published on 9 November 2022
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Environmentally-adjusted productivity measures for the UK

Could productivity growth drive both economic growth & the Net Zero transition? It depends on how you measure productivity & economic output. A new working paper by Josh Martin & Dr Matthew Agarwala explores four measures of environmentally-adjusted productivity in the UK.

Standard productivity measures follow a private goods perspective, assuming free disposal of bad outputs. But from a social welfare perspective, productivity measures would internalise production externalities. We explore four deviations from the standard measures, including:

  • examining energy productivity;
  • incorporating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as an input;
  • incorporating GHG and non-GHG air pollutants as ‘bad outputs’;
  • and incorporating environmental protection as a ‘good’ output.

Our contribution is two-fold: we believe we are the first to treat environmental protection expenditure as capital investment in the UK context; and, where previous studies have incorporated emissions into economy-wide productivity measures, we utilise the richness of UK data to construct sector-specific environmentally-adjusted productivity for up to 42 industries. UK energy-productivity has more than doubled since 1990, and emissions-productivity almost tripled. Incorporating emissions increases measured output and labour productivity growth, but not enough to explain the productivity puzzle. In some industries, incorporating emissions and pollutants turns GVA negative. Industry-level data indicates that these rapid growths are mostly due to increased efficiency within industries, with only 8-21% due to changing industrial composition since 1990. Incorporating environmental protection as a ‘good’ output raises the level of GVA by around 6-7%, but does not significantly alter its growth rate.

Blog: Greening productivity measurement


Image: Rawpixel.com on Freepik

Authors

Matthew Agarwala

Dr Matthew Agarwala

Project Leader: The Wealth Economy

Matthew Agarwala, Economist, Bennett Institute for Public Policy, Cambridge. Matthew Agarwala is an economist interested in wealth-based approaches to measuring and delivering sustainability, wellbeing, and productivity. His research is motivated...

Josh Martin

Josh Martin is an economic advisor at the Bank of England, on secondment from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), where he was most recently Head of Productivity statistics. He worked...

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