The Factor X Debate: Setting Targets for Eco-Efficiency


IVAM /ARISE, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Prinsengracht 130, 1018 VZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands, email:


The quantification and achievement of eco-efficiency or dematerialization in the form of a factor X, with X varying between 4 and 50 is being espoused by a variety of analysts and advocates. Politically, these efforts are mainly confined to some European countries. They reflect a remarkable technological optimism. This article reviews some of the major issues pertinent to the factor X debate. The case is presented for quantifying dematerialization or eco-efficiency goals using a factor X. It is also found that the factor X lacks precision as yet, and that there is only limited interest in the possibilrty that achievable values for X may vary widely among economic activities given technological constraints. There is no agreement whether technological improvement alone will be sufficient to achieve a factor X in practice for economies as a whole. It seems likely, however; that government-driven technology forcing will be necessary to achieve a factor X in practical terms, especially when X is relatively large.