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Pressrelease | 2021-04-08
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Reducing rebound effects will be crucial to achieve climate and environmental goals

Investments in more fuel-efficient vehicles and a transport-efficient society are crucial for achieving the Swedish climate goals and the Paris Agreement. At the same time, such measures risk leading to rebound effects that counteract reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A new report has looked at how policy instruments should be designed to avoid rebound effects.

When one sector shrinks, space is created so that another can grow. This is how the meaning of the concept of rebound effects can be summarized, which means that reduced emissions and more efficient use of resources in a sector do not lead to the same positive results on the total. An example is fuel-efficient cars that are cheap to drive and thus transfer money to other climate-damaging consumption. Another example is that reduced business travel in connection with the pandemic saves both time and money and risks leading to people settling larger, further away from the workplace and with poorer access to public transport.

– It is important to take rebound effects into account when planning for a transport-efficient society. With the right design, it is possible to reduce emissions and not all policy instruments need to lead to recoil effects, says Mikael Malmaeus who is project manager for the recently completed Vinnova-financed project "Rebound effects and design of policy instruments".

The study, which was carried out by researchers from IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and KTH, examined a number of transport-related instruments and focused in particular on how rebound effects can be minimized or avoided. One conclusion is that it is desirable to have system-wide measures and combinations of instruments that together steer towards the same goal.

– This means challenges for authorities, decision-makers and experts who often only have knowledge and access to a certain sector and focus on measurable goals. But there are also narrow and accurate measures that can be effective, says Mikael Malmaeus.

The study assesses that two of the policy instruments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions introduced in Sweden in recent years have a positive climate effect. This applies partly to the aviation tax that was introduced in 2018 and partly to the system with bonus malus for electric cars, which will now be increased from the first of April this year.

– Reduced air travel as a result of the air tax can admittedly lead to people instead spending money on other consumption, but the rebound effect of this is judged to be small given that almost all other consumption is less climate-damaging per krona compared to air travel. Electric cars have lower operating costs than cars with internal combustion engines, and stimulation of electric cars can therefore lead to longer driving distances, but even this is of less importance from a climate point of view as electric power in Sweden has a low climate impact, says Mikael Malmaeus.

The report can be read here (in Swedish): Rebound effects and design of policy instruments Pdf, 1.4 MB, opens in new window.

For more information, please contact:
Mikael Malmaeus, mikael.malmaeus@ivl.se, +46 (0)10-788 65 80

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