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Rebound! Rebound! Rebound! ... further research needed!

Bas de Leeuw | 09 June 2010

Lively debates in the Egmond Eco Efficiency Conference in Thursday afternoon's plenary discussion. One of the hot potatoes was the rebound effect, seen as a depressing topic by many, or just talking common sense by others.

What's the Problem? How to prevent that gains from eco-efficiency - which are often apart from environmental also monetary, - are used by the consumer to happily and with a clear conscience buy more of the same product or to buy other (and possibly more polluting) products or services?

Rebound exists on the individual level and on the broader macro level (more efficiency generating innovation which generates an increase of economic growth).

On average the rebound effect could diminish the effectiveness of efficiency measures with 30-70%, or even more than 100% (back fire).

The simple solution - at least in theory - is: increase the price! Politically this is not a popular measure, that is why it is seldom implemented. Social and distribution issues play a major role in this highly complex field.

Funding rebound research is not popular as well, as one participant observed, because it is such a depressing topic. Still the way to go for any government which wants to make real progress.