Increasing demand for resources has been met with a new wave of resource efficiency policies worldwide. Such policies are, however, vulnerable to rebound effects when increased resource efficiency leads to additional resource use via behavioural and systemic responses. Yet, the implications of policy-induced rebounds are mostly unknown since most studies have focused on costless and exogenous efficiency improvements that are not linked to any specific policy intervention. After reviewing the literature, we provide guidance for the analysis of policy-induced rebounds. With regards to scope and method design, we highlight the untapped potential of life cycle assessment (to capture trade-offs between life cycle stages and environmental pressures) and macro-economic modelling (to reveal economic consequences beyond supply chain effects). We also find striking asymmetries in research efforts, leaving knowledge gaps for key resource efficiency strategies targeting, among others, materials, water, land, biodiversity, and waste. Lastly, rebound effects generally focus on a single resource, usually energy, and much is ignored about their implications in the context of resource interlinkages. A better understanding of such cross-resource rebounds is key to design and to assess the effectiveness of emerging policy paradigms such as the resource nexus and the sustainable development goals.
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