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Between Green Growth and Degrowth: Decoupling, Rebound Effects and the Politics for Long-Term Sustainability

Jin Xue, Jørgen Nørgård

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Abstract: Taking the simple equation: I(impact) = P(population) · A(affluence) · T(technology) as the point of departure, this chapter discusses the delusion of decoupling economic activities from environmental impacts by resorting to reduce eco-intensities through technological advancement alone. It is argued that the rebound effect is both a natural consequence of the growth dedicated society and a driver of further economic growth. Through rebound effects, labour productivity and eco-efficiency technologies in the growth society tend to contradict the goal of achieving environmental sustainability. To address the environmental problems, attention should therefore be redirected to the growth ideology and policy in current society. Drawing on the emerging degrowth debates in the affluent countries, the chapter proposes pathways towards a degrowth transformation by, respectively, discussing the role of population, affluence and technology in the attempts at reducing environmental impacts. Overall, it is suggested that from an analysis not confined to monetary terms, but with real cost and real benefits represented by environmental damage and human satisfaction, respectively, a degrowth in affluent countries can be achieved at no net cost.

Book chapter in "Rethinking Climate and Energy Policies - New Perspectives on the Rebound Phenomenon"
Editors: Tilman Santarius, Hans Jakob Walnum, Carlo Aal

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