Future Lifestyles

The availability of low-carbon lifestyle options varies across the world, and the visions and future scenarios for a sustainable and equitable future depend on the context in which we live. How do our daily ways of living affect our environment, communities, and our own well-being, and what is the impact of our daily lifestyle choices?

The “Envisioning Future Low-Carbon Lifestyles and Transitioning Instruments” project aims to address these important questions by engaging households and citizens from around the world to develop co-created pathways forward to truly sustainable ways of living.

Building upon the work of ‘1.5 Degree Lifestyles: Targets and options for reducing lifestyle carbon footprints’ the Envisioning Future Low-Carbon Lifestyles and Transitioning Instruments is a Demonstration Project through the United Nations’ One Planet network. Funded by the Government of Japan through its contribution to the 10YFP Trust Fund (administered by UNEP) this project is led by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in collaboration with Hot or Cool Institute, D-MatICLEI Japan, the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan (NIES) and implementation partners: Akatu Institute (Brazil); Swechha India (India); ICLEI (South Africa); and HSM, Chulalongkorn University (Thailand).

What emerges from the project is a mosaic of community-generated future lifestyle visions and experiences of households living with the low-carbon options complemented with scientific findings that show the emissions reduction potential in the areas of housing, mobility, nutrition, consumer goods & services, and leisure. 

On this page, we invite you to read more about this inspiring project and what it means to live within the 1.5 -Degree Lifestyles framework. 

City Scenarios

You are invited to consider the lifestyle options and preliminary findings of climate change mitigation workshops and experiments in:

Cape Town, South Africa

Kyoto, Japan

New Delhi, India

Nonthaburi, Thailand

São Paulo, Brazil

Yokohama, Japan

The Science is uncomfortably clear. The Paris Agreement proclaimed that we must “limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius…” (UNFCCC, 2015) in order to mitigate unprecedented impacts of climate change such as further biodiversity loss and the deterioration of public health. Many of us feel an urgent need to combat climate change and its impacts.

196 countries agreed to the Paris Agreement. It is understood that to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must change our way of living. We simply cannot continue on our current path of consumption. Reaching this goal requires social and economic transformation.

Nevertheless, the urgency of transitioning towards more sustainable lifestyles is often underestimated. Everyday living needs to be transformed at the size, scale and urgency required because the decisions we make to meet our daily needs for food, housing, mobility and leisure greatly impact the planet and the people around us. Prioritizing what we can all do can generate the momentum for change we need! In addition, our individual behavior changes must be accompanied by broader systemic and structural changes, including new institutions and infrastructures that embody the ethos of sustainability.

At this point you might ask yourself how we can actually achieve social change. We believe that a first step towards making sustainable lifestyles the social norm is to share the experiences of citizens who already tried to make 1.5 degree living a reality. So, we better understand which lifestyle changes are realistic, possible and even improve our own wellbeing. On the other hand, we can learn from the challenges and difficulties that are connected to lifestyle changes and at the same time identify the supporting measures that governments and cities need to put in place to speed up the process to a more sustainable future.

How exactly do we make living within 1.5 degrees a reality?

Fostering 1.5 degrees lifestyles with urban partnerships

According to the 1.5 Degree Lifestyles report analysis, if the remaining total budget was distributed equally among everyone, the target for reducing lifestyles carbon footprints per year will be 2.5 tons of CO2 equivalence per person by 2030, and down to 0.7 tons by 2050!

While individual choices are a part of changing the system, it is abundantly obvious that we need access to different choices in a sustainable system.

Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, many nations have made strides and created strategies to reduce their Greenhouse Gas emissions—this is a positive sign– but Science shows that these efforts need to be accelerated. Emissions continue to increase. Action is needed at every level to reverse this trend.

The globe is currently divided into a group that is massively over-consuming and a group that is under-consuming (with a much lower quality of life.) Those who are under-consuming are largely doing so involuntarily due to factors such as poverty and lack of access to resources.

There is a strong correlation between a country’s average wealth (GDP per capita) and the average emissions per person (carbon footprint per capita.) The higher the average wealth, the higher the average emissions. While it is generally accepted that differences in income affect quality of life, the goal is to envision 1.5 degree lifestyles without compromising quality of life. Equity is core to building a better future for everyone.

Learn more about the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

In 2019, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) collaborated with the Hot or Cool network of scientists and practitioners (now Hot or Cool Institute,) Aalto University, D-Mat, KR Foundation and SITRA on the technical report, ‘1.5 Degree Lifestyles: Targets and options for reducing lifestyle carbon footprints’. This report looked at the ambitious aspiration of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and its implications on lifestyles in five different national contexts. It marked the first time a study like this was ever done.

According to the 1.5 Degree Lifestyles report analysis, if the remaining total budget was distributed equally among everyone, the target for reducing lifestyles carbon footprints per year will be 2.5 tons of CO2 equivalent per person by 2030, and down to 0.7 tons by 2050! These figures were found by dividing global carbon data equally amongst the world’s population.

What does CO2 equivalence mean? Everyday activities generate gasses that can trap heat and have a negative impact on the environment—these are known as greenhouse gases. Some greenhouse gases (GHGs) warm the planet more than others (for example, methane warms the earth more than carbon dioxide.) To account for these different rates, all of the GHGs can be communicated as an amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) based upon its impact on warming the earth (AKA: how much carbon dioxide would have the same impact on the planet)—this calculation is known as CO2 equivalence or CO2e.

Lifestyle carbon footprints are GHG emissions directly emitted and indirectly induced from the final consumption of households, (excluding those induced by government consumption… such as infrastructure.) (IGES et al., 2019).

When we talk about lifestyles, the following five areas are where consumption has the highest impact on the environment:

  • Food (What kind of food are we eating? Where does our food come from? )
  • Housing (What kind of dwelling do we live in? How much space does it have? How many people do we cohabitate with? How is our space powered?)
  • Mobility (How do we commute in our daily lives? How often are we travelling? How far do we travel? What powers our mode of transport?)
  • Leisure (What do we do when we are not studying/working? What do we aspire to do? How do we explore new places? What kind of experiences do we value? What kinds of services do we use?)
  • Consumer Goods & Services (What kinds of products do we buy? How do we access them? Where do they come from? How do we use them? How are they packaged? How are they transported?)

Where do YOU see opportunities for action? Can you identify ways to create a 1.5 Degree Lifestyle — both at the systemic level (through infrastructure, accessibility, education, etc.) + on the individual level (through behaviour change)? If we were all given an equal annual maximum carbon budget per person how would we live? If we had to remove some options from society, what would we give up? How can we make our workplaces and work style fit a future where the carbon budget is radically lower than it is now?

Systemic change is transformative change that fundamentally changes the way a whole system functions. Disruptive by definition, systemic change creates a new system. For example, the Internet changed the way the ‘information system’ functions.

While individual action is a part of systems change, making voluntary changes on a personal level will not be enough. The whole system needs to change to offer sustainable options. This means our economy must be re-engineered and our mindset must be re-wired.

Many were certain that changing production patterns was impossible, but the Covid-19 global pandemic has proven that changing the status quo might be inconvenient—but it is not impossible. Though it is challenging, once systemic change is in motion, there are often unexpected benefits. For example, the current pandemic has forced many changes to the systems that govern our daily lives, some of them have been very difficult– but have you noticed any changes to your life that have actually been positive? Do you appreciate your loved ones more? Are you more grateful for access to Nature?

Sustainable living means living within the planet’s limits. It means accepting hard limits to consumption, production, energy and resource use. But what about the non-material aspects? Once basic material needs are met for every member of our society, we must consider other aspects of our quality of life: how we want to feel, what kinds of experiences we want to have, what relationships we want to nourish…Creating visions of the future is part of our action to create a better future. There is no single, ‘right’ path forward. We need a diversity of visions. Visions that include realism about the challenges ahead but also have fearless imagination about what we can build together!

Envisioning Future Low-Carbon Lifestyles and Transitioning Instruments project works with households and citizens to:

  • Develop co-created pathways to sustainability in countries across the world.
  • Mainstream low-carbon lifestyle options by identifying country-specific low-carbon options and showing the impact of various options and contextualizing them within overall carbon footprints.
  • Implement citizen workshops and household experiments to develop a participatory process whereby households develop and implement their own sustainability pathway.
  • Develop scenarios and policy recommendations drawing from experiences of households living with the low-carbon options.
  • Create a communication opportunity to further engage the general public across the world.

That’s right! City dwellers have actually been testing different options to change their lifestyle to live within 1.5 degrees by meeting a new carbon budget!

Read more

Click below to view each city’s briefs and documents.


Scenario Summary


Option Catalogue

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