Potential barriers to achieving decoupling - 1st Newsletter on DYNAMIX research findings

Dear Reader,

The DYNAMIX project aims at identifying and assessing promising policy mixes in support of absolute decoupling of resource use and environmental impacts from EU economic growth. One year into the project, the involved researchers succeeded in 1) laying down the common approach for the project's analyses, 2) discussing the role that paradigms and paradigm shifts play in the context of decoupling, 3) and analysing main reasons for existing (in)efficient resource use. 

Based on these findings, our researchers will engage in intensive debate and exchange with policy makers and academia during 4) the 2nd DYNAMIX policy platform and 5) the 2013 World Resources Forum in Davos.

With resource policy being in the process of further development on the European level (e.g. the Manifesto and upcoming conclusions of the European Resource Efficiency Platform) and on the national level in various Member States, we hope to contribute our research findings to the debate and foster ongoing discussions and developments towards greater resource efficiency and absolute decoupling.

We hope that this newsletter will encourage you to follow-up on our project and exchange with our researchers - we are looking very much forward to that!

With kind regards,

the DYNAMIX team


In this newsletter

  1. "How will we know if absolute decoupling has been achieved?" - DYNAMIX Common Approach published
  2. The Use of Paradigms in DYNAMIX - Report published
  3. The underlying reasons for resource (in)efficiencies - Final Report published
  4. 2nd DYNAMIX Policy Platform, 24-25 October 2013 in Brussels
  5. DYNAMIX researchers present findings at the 2013 World Resources Forum
  6. News on progress in Resource Efficiency



1. How will we know if absolute decoupling has been achieved?

The Common Approach lays the foundations for resource policy assessment within DYNAMIX

The objective of the DYNAMIX project is to identify policy mixes to absolute decoupling of economic growth from resource use and its environmental impacts. While the project’s work packages will apply a number of different methods, all use a set of shared key concepts and assumptions. The Common Approach serves to clarify these concepts. In particular, it derives working definitions for the the terms "absolute decoupling", "resource efficiency", "paradigm" and "policy mix" based on a detailed analysis of scientific literature and policy documents as well as intense discussions with stakeholders.

More importantly, the team proposes five key targets for resource efficiency policy as a benchmark against which to assess the effectiveness of policy interventions. The pragmatic target set covers metal, land and freshwater use, nutrients input, and greenhouse gas emissions. The targets are chosen so as to cover the most critical environmental impacts and looming resource scarcities, without overlap between them. They reflect the available evidence on planetary boundaries, are grounded in a global equity perspective, and are neutral with respect to the choice of abatement measures. In short, the Common Approach helps to sharpen the concepts used in the resource efficiency policy arena and contributes to the ongoing debate at EU level about appropriate targets, indicators and ambition levels.

Download the full report here.


2. The use of paradigms in DYNAMIX - Report published

This paper introduces the concept of paradigm and its use in DYNAMIX.

Going beyond commonly used synonyms such as model, attitude or practice, the paradigm is defined here to be the worldview – the set of values, beliefs and ideologies – in which one is immersed.  The origin of the concept along with its different manifestations within the social and natural sciences are explored further in Section 2 of the paper, followed by preliminary working definitions of associ ated concepts and examples – such as the New Environmental Paradigm and Sustainability itself – in Section 3. The final section outlines the role and application of paradigm analysis in DYNAMIX, and begins to delve further into commonly-used paradigms and concepts explicitly concerning resource use.

Download the full report here.


3. The underlying reasons for resource (in)efficiencies - Final Report published

Which resources do we use most inefficiently and why? What is driving our inefficient resource use and how much room for improvement is there? Answers to these questions can be found in the latest DYNAMIX report entitled "The underlying reasons for resource (in)efficiencies"now available for download here!

The goal of this work package was to identify and assess some of the key drivers of inefficient resource use in the EU. The study examined a broad range of individual resources (e.g. materials, land, water, energy, and ecosystems), analysing their macro-economic flows and assessing inefficiencies in their use throughout their life cycles.

In the three sectors food, buildings, and transport, key inefficiencies were identified and their causes were mapped. This was done according to their potential for improving resource efficiency, as well as the feasibility of influencing them via policy.

The findings from this work package provide a thorough understanding of the drivers and causes of inefficient resource use and will be vital in the next steps of the DYNAMIX project when designing appropriate and effective policy mixes to achieve absolute decoupling.  

For more information, take a look at the Final Report and its Executive Summary, both available here!

4. 2nd DYNAMIX Policy Platform, 24-25 October 2013 in Brussels

The 2nd DYNAMIX Policy Platform will take place on 24-25 October 2013 in Brussels and is entitled “Policy mixes for resource efficience in Europe: Lessons learned and ways forward”. The focus is thus on discussing policy mixes for resource efficiency in Europe. The Policy Platform will

  • Discuss first results from case studies of policies fostering decoupling applied in different European countries;
  • Debate on different stakeholder views on resource efficiency policies and applications;
  • And reflect upon promising policies and policy mixes for resource efficiency in the future.

There will be about 60 invited participants from all over Europe at the event, incl. policy-makers, researchers, business and NGO representatives as well as representatives of environmental protection agencies, statistical offices and international organizations.

The 2nd Policy Platform will have various sessions and combine keynote presentations, interactive group work and panel discussions. The differnet sessions focus on the following topics: recent debates and policy intiatives on resource efficiency in Europe; findings on resource (in)efficiency based on real life policy mixes; comparative analysis on resource efficiency policies; stakeholder perceptions and different worldviews on resource efficiency policy; the role of paradigms and pathways for action; and promising policies and policy mixes for resource efficiency.

Among the confirmed speakers and panelists are: Alan Seatter (Deputy Director General, DG Environment); Stefan Bringezu (Director at the Wuppertal Institute), Peter Borkey (Environment Director at OECD), and Kirstie McIntyre (Director Environmental Responsibility, Hewlett Packard). The agenda for the event can be downloaded here. Please also find available for download a full documentation of th 1st DYNAMIX Policy Platform that took place in March 2013 in Brussels here.

5. DYNAMIX researchers present findings at the 2013 World Resources Forum

Davos, Switzerland, October 7th-9th 2013

Four DYNAMIX researchers from three project partner institutes will present project findings at the 2013 World Resources Forum.

On October 7th, Dr. Martin Hirschnitz-Garbers from Ecologic Institute will provide some answers to the question “what drives (in)efficient use of resources?” based on findings from a literature meta-analysis.

Katharina Umpfenbach from Ecologic Institute and Dr. Adrian Tan from BIO Intelligence Service will discuss the DYNAMIX approach on “deriving a pragmatic target set for guiding EU resource efficiency policy towards 2050” on October 8th.

While the focus of Dr. Adrian Tan’s presentation on October 9th will be on “identifying resource inefficiency potentials to achieve absolute decoupling”, Robin Vanner from the Policy Studies Institute at the University of Westminster discusses “what role paradigm change does need to play in achieving absolute decoupling”.

The WRF was held in the famous Swiss mountain resort Davos, October 7th-9th 2013, in cooperation with UNEP; the Club of Rome; the European Parliament; the Swiss, Dutch, and German governments; Empa; TNO; HP; the Chinese and Swiss Academies of Sciences; University of Jakarta; Tellus Institute; and other partners.

Participants could watch the WRF Parade, attend the plenary panels on resource governance, business, education, and lifestyles, involve themselves in 20 workshops and over 100 scientific paper and poster presentations, and wind down and enjoy the company of fellow delegates from governments, business, researchers and NGO's from all over the world in the WRF Lounge.

Among the speakers were Ernst-Ulrich von Weizsaecker, Ugo Bardi, Achim Steiner (video), HRH Prince Jaime de Bourbon, Antonio Pedro, Bastien Girod, Roland Clift, Halina Brown, Solitaire Townsend and many others.


Based on information gathered on the Online Resource Efficiency Platform, the following issues are examples for progress in resource efficiency:

  1. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has published a report calling for a fundamental shift in the way governments tackle the challenge of water security. The publication, ‘Water Security for Better Lives’, advocates a move away from short-term crisis management in favour of a risk-based approach to improve water security in a cost-effective manner. It says the key lies in adopting an approach based on knowing, targeting and managing water risks. Pleasse click here for more information.
  2. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has published a report outlining Sweden’s potential for the sustainable recycling of phosphorous from waste components. The report was commissioned by the Swedish Government and will serve as a basis for national decision-making and the development of phosphorous recycling initiatives.
  3. A report by the European Recovered Paper Council (ERPC) reveals that Europe achieved an impressive paper recycling rate of 71.7% in 2012, the best in the world. According to the ERPC’s annual monitoring report for 2012, current paper consumption in Europe has dropped by 13% to the level in 1998, but the amount being recycled is 1.5 times higher. The ERPC describes it as a ‘remarkable achievement’.
  4. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has released a report that for the first time analyses the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective. The UN organisation estimates that approximately one-third of all food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted – around 1.3 billion tonnes per year. This wastes $750 billion annually, and also leads to significant harm to the earth’s natural resources. The report, entitled ‘Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources’, reveals that the loss of land, water and biodiversity related to food loss and wastage, as well as the negative impacts of climate change, are having considerable impacts on society. Please click here for more information.