Creative destruction: innovation for sustainability transition

During the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris earlier this month, nearly 200 countries agreed to limit global warming to 1,5C above pre-industrial levels and getting to net zero emissions between 2050 and 2100. The agreement on these goals is a great result of difficult negotiations. Achieving these goals are probably even more difficult if we do not change our behaviour. We can do this by adopting new behaviour which has no (or fewer) climate impact, but also to stop behaviour with a negative climate impact.

In the february 2016 edition of Research Policy, Kivimaa & Kern (2016) propose that sustainability transitions can best be achieved if governments stimulate  sustainabilty through innovation and at the same time withdraw the support for old behaviour when it has a negative climate impact. This so called policy mix of stimulating the ‘creation’ of the new and for ‘destroying’ of the old, is built on the concept op creative destruction as proposed by Joseph Schumpeter. Kivimaa & Kern (2016) show the results of policy mixes that aim for creative destruction in the UK and Finland. As expected the implementation of policies that aim for destruction are the most difficult and are for that reason the least in use.

However there are good arguments for destructive policies as it achieves more effective competition and it stimulates more radical entrepreneurship.


Norbert Bol


Kivimaa, P., & Kern, F. (2016). Creative destruction or mere niche support? Innovation policy mixes for sustainability transitions. Research Policy, 45(1), 205-217.

Photo credit: All Free Author: Creative Daydreaming by Frits Ahlefeldt

2 thoughts on “Creative destruction: innovation for sustainability transition

  1. Great to see a ray of hope. Thanks for the news and the idea. True – changing behavior of masses seems to me nearly impossible in short and medium term – it takes long time. Situation is further complicated because mass behavior is strongly bonded with quantitative growth oriented global behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

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