Case study report and case studies on decoupling

Citation: Mazza, L., Fedrigo-Fazio, D., Withana, S. and Lopes, A.F. (2013). Evaluating existing policy mixes to identify solutions for EU resource efficiency. Summary report of 15 real world policy mix evaluations. DYNAMIX Deliverable D3.1, Brussels: IEEP.


The project’s focus on absolute decoupling places the assessment at a very aggregate level. In order to investigate whether economy-wide decoupling occurs, we have to consider a multitude of biotic and abiotic resources having an impact on various elements of the global ecosystem across the entire value and supply nets, from extraction to disposal, and within a number of economic sectors and consumption fields. Even though some consumption fields and sectors clearly involve higher resource use than others – notably food, mobility and housing – virtually any activity, good or service directly or indirectly depends on resource use. A meaningful assessment of whether absolute decoupling is achieved at the level of an entire economy thus needs to take into account all types of resources and the interconnections and competition that exist between resource systems. Even though a policy strategy to reduce overall resource use and its impacts will have to encompass sector- or resource-specific measures, a focus on these alone would risk shifting problems to other sectors or regions, or trading one type of environmental impact for another. Here, one crucial side-effect is the indirect rebound effect that occurs when income saved through efficiency gains is spent on other resource-consuming goods and services.


DYNAMIX follows EU strategic documents, namely the Thematic Strategy on Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and the Roadmap for a Resource-Efficient Europe, in taking a broad approach to resources. Hence, in line with the approach chosen in the DYNAMIX project, in the selection of potential case studies for ex-post evaluation the resources considered ranged from abiotic resources, including minerals, metals, and fossil fuels; biotic resources, including timber, fish, agricultural products and all other types of biomass, to environmental media and the ecosystem services linked to them: land, water, air, soil, biodiversity and flow resources such as wind, geothermal, tidal and solar energy.


In order to inform the selection of promising policy mixes for absolute decoupling, a total of 15 case studies were undertaken in the DYNAMIX project. They are summarised in the report below and fully elaborated in the individual caste study documents.