On Rebound, Prebound and Performance Gaps

On Rebound, Prebound and Performance Gaps

Is efficiency a magic weapon for environmental protection? More efficient technologies can also lead to more rather than to less consumption. The rebound effect has entered public debate. In particular, increases in energy efficiency are being criticised. However, in order to be able to assess rebound effects, clear distinctions have to be made. By Reinhard Madlener, translated from the German by Kerstin Haep read more
Rethink rather than rebound: a sufficiency revolution must precede the efficiency revolution

Rethink rather than rebound: a sufficiency revolution must precede the efficiency revolution

Commitments to efficiency are no miracle cure to ensure a transformation towards more sustainability. By means of sufficiency policies, however, even rebound effects can be limited.
By Wolfgang Sachs and Tilman Santarius. Translated from the German by Judith Stenzel read more
Can a donkey be tragic?

Can a donkey be tragic?

Technological development and its adverse consequences for the environment and for people can hardly be reasonably regulated; there is a way back only after accidents. In order to further understand rebound, another story needs to be told, a philosophical 'aestheticisation 'of the imprecise. By Bernd Draser
Translated from the German by Vanessa Kammerer read more
Den Ressourcenverbrauch durch Gleichheit drosseln

Den Ressourcenverbrauch durch Gleichheit drosseln

Gleichheit ist ein Schlüsselfaktor zu Ansätzen solidarischer Postwachstumsökonomie und von Commons, mit dem im post-fossilen Zeitalter die herrschende nicht-nachhaltige Wirtschaftsordnung und Rebound-Effekte überwunden werden können. Von Andreas Exner read more

Bound to Rebound: Efficiency with consequences

The 2014 edition of WWF's Living Planet Report reveals that humanity is using 50% more natural resources per year than the planet can regenerate and yield sustainably. Furthermore, the mountain of our debt to nature continues to grow, whilst our stocks of resource are constantly diminishing. People in Germany have a particular responsibility, especially since each of us consumes twice the amount of resources as the global per capita amount available would allow. We are therefore living at the expense of other countries. But the Living Planet Report also contains good news: our ecological footprint has remained unchanged in recent years despite the fact that our prosperity has been increasing. This is a result of improved resource efficiency, with more value being created with fewer resources.

However, even with increased raw material productivity, we cannot reach the strategic sustainability goal that we have set: between 1994 and 2020, raw material productivity is likely to have increased by only approximately 82%.

If economic growth and prosperity continue to depend strongly on the consumption of natural resources, it will not be possible to limit the increasing conflict-laden demand for resources. The rebound effects are growing mercilessly, most efficiency gains are leading to fewer resource savings than expected. 

How high are these rebound effects really? How are they measured and how can they be kept in check? After 30 years of research on rebound, there are still major scientific differences and a great need for further research. 

This has also been recognized by the German Bundestags's Study Commission on Growth, Wellbeing and Quality of Life, which commissioned an expert opinion from our author Reinhard Madlener. In this issue of factory, he introduces the various categories and facets of rebound.

Tilman Santarius and Wolfgang Sachs are two additional experts on the rebound phenomenon. They argue for a sufficiency revolution prior to the efficiency revolution. Then there is Bernd Draser who looks at the tragedy of efficiency efforts, and Andreas Exner addresses the constraints of the prevailing system. Ralph Hintemann outlines how the rebound effects have developed during the digital revolution, and the working group of Folkwang University argues for a smart upgrade of things in order to raise awareness for resources. In an interview, Peter Hennicke, the former President of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, who recently received the German Environmental Award, and the physicist and political scientist Stefan Thomas call for a realistic consideration of the rebound effect – as well as its limitation by sufficiency policies and by setting upper limits on consumption. Only with the help of such measures – and this is the key finding of this issue of factory – can we prevent rebound effects from delaying the most important effect of resource efficiency measures in the long run: the reduction of the global resource consumption.

We hope this factory issue provides you with many insights into rebound.

Ralf Bindel and the factory team 

Translated from the German by: Miriam Eckers, Cornelia Enger and Bianca Gerards

More articles to this topic we present not only online but in our magazine Rebound. It ist finely illustrated and good readable on tablets and screens and contains all articles and pictures as well as numbers and citations.

Magazin als PDF