Rebound effects of sustainable production

Weidema B P (2008)

Publication info

Presentation to the “Sustainable Consumption and Production” session of the conference “Bridging the Gap; Responding to Environmental Change – From Words to Deeds”, Portoro, Slovenia, 2008.05.14-16. (Also presented to LCAVIII, Seattle, 2008.09.30).


This presentation provides a definition and classification of rebound effects, and gives examples of the different kinds of rebound effects. In general, ignoring rebound effects leads to either under- or over-estimation of the effects of new technologies. This stresses the importance of including rebound effects in assessments of new technologies. In a recent study for the EU Commission, DG- JRC, IPTS in Sevilla, on the improvement potentials for meat and milk products in Europe, we estimated the rebound effects for 12 improvement options, showing that the rebound effects often emphasise the benefits of the improvement options; in one case the benefit with rebound effects was nearly five times the benefit without rebound effects. The recognition of rebound effects has important policy implications, stressing impact intensity as a central concept for in strategies for sustainable consumption. Although rebound effects may already now be quantified and applied in policy analysis, improvements in our modelling capacity is warranted. This could be achieved by better data on marginal consumption patterns, and time and space elasticities. More knowledge is also required of the best ways to influence consumer behaviour to convert the insights in the rebound effect into reductions in environmental impacts.

Download PDF