Monday 9 May, Berlin:
● Lifestyle changes could cut emissions by between 40-70 percent by 2050, making them a vital tool in the fight against climate change and the race to net zero
● Key role for governments and business to make sustainable lifestyle choices the most accessible and affordable, from reducing reliance on cars and addressing inefficient buildings
● Lifestyle changes, supported by government policy, can help cut emissions, cut waste, cut energy bills, and cut European dependence on Russian fossil fuel imports
A new Policy Brief articulates how radical changes in behaviour and lifestyles need to be made to address the climate emergency. Published by the United Nations Environment Programme and developed by the Berlin based think tank Hot or Cool Institute, the policy brief puts forward several proposes how our consumption choices must be changed in the hotspot areas including food, housing, transportation and fashion to jumpstart the transition to sustainable lifestyles.
The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is clear: tackling the climate emergency requires changing how we consume. The report also finds that with the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place, we can make the necessary lifestyle changes to reduce 40-70 per cent of GHGs by 2050. Not only will these changes aid the fight against climate change, they will also improve our wellbeing, due to reductions in air pollution, healthier diets, reduced social tensions and stress.
The Policy Brief, Enabling Sustainable Lifestyles in a Climate Emergency, tasks governments and businesses to lead the charge with sweeping measures that will make it easier for citizens and households to live more sustainably. It offers insights on the forces that shape our lifestyles, from values and norms to economic factors and government regulations, all of which are underpinned by the physical infrastructure within which we live.
Based on analysis conducted by the Hot or Cool Institute the report recommends actions in four areas of everyday living: reduce car dependence and carbon intensive long-distance travel; address unsustainable energy use in residential buildings; shift from meat to plant-rich and alternative diets; and eliminate fast fashion.
“The science behind the IPCC reports leaves us no option but a complete rethink of our ways of living and the provisioning systems behind it. Any so-called solutions that do not recognise the magnitude and scale of the challenge are simply adding to the problem,” says Dr. Lewis Akenji, Managing Director of the Hot or Cool Institute and lead author of Enabling Sustainable Lifestyles in a Climate Emergency. “We need to curb our appetites for stuff, and to usher in wide scale innovation for regenerative alternatives. Amid a climate crisis, too much choice can be a bad thing. This brief illustrates concrete policy strategies that offer a proposition for a value-driven and sustainable society. Applying this has the double dividend of addressing the climate challenge while also improving our collective wellbeing.”
The brief introduces the policy tool of choice editing as a key mechanism to lead the transition to sustainable lifestyles. By applying the choice-editing framework, policy makers can shape the structural factors that constrain our lifestyle choices. They can edit out harmful lifestyle and consumption options and edit in more desirable alternatives and ensure that everyone has access to life’s necessities.
Governments traditionally apply choice editing tools for public safety, health and security. Ownership of firearms, for example, is highly restricted in many countries. Foods in the market must comply with health standards. The Policy Brief argues that in this climate emergency, as now acknowledged by the United Nations and declared by most member states and major cities around the world, sustainability needs to be a criteria for editing behaviour and lifestyles choices.
High impact areas to be edited out include those that are fossil-fuel dependent, such as private car prevalence, airport expansion, and home heating or cooling from fossil fuel sources. Other priority categories lifestyles options that result in private profits and public or environmental burdens, such as investments in fossil fuels, promotion of fast fashion and loyalty programs such as frequent flier or luxury hotel memberships that incentivize high impact consumerism among the top 10% of global income earners.
More sustainable alternatives, especially those that contribute to increased wellbeing, need to be edited in. An example is creation of car-free neighbourhoods or cities, and conversation of car parks to public gardens and shared leisure spaces, or investments in better public transportation.
This can shift the scales towards sustainable lifestyles and accelerate the process of ensuring more equitable resource use both nationally and at the global levels.
“Promoting sustainable lifestyles and behaviours presents a huge untapped potential to address the triple planetary crises of climate change, nature loss and pollution. We have increased our understanding of which policy mixes would be effective, but we need a broader uptake if we are to achieve more significant impacts across all living domains. This report is a benchmark effort that provides the evidence and ways in which governments can take immediate action and engage private sector and civil society,” says Elisa Tonda, Head of the Consumption and Production Unit at the United Nations Environment Programme. “Coming out a month after the latest IPCC report that highlighted for the first time the urgent need to create the context for sustainable living, we hope that this policy brief inspires more action to shift to more sustainable lifestyles and behaviours.”
“To live more sustainably as a society, we need to change how we eat, move around, live, and consume. And for these changes to happen, we need policy makers to step up. This brief provides policymakers with frameworks to develop strategies to align lifestyles and the systems that underpin them with environmental objectives, like those in the IPCC report and Paris Agreement on climate change” says Dr. Magnus Bengtsson, Policy Lead at the Hot or Cool Institute and author of Enabling Sustainable Lifestyles in a Climate Emergency.
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About the Hot or Cool Institute
The Hot or Cool Institute is a public interest think tank that explores the intersection between society and sustainability. Our mission is to equip organisations, policy makers, and communities with the science to inform their decisions towards a sustainable and prosperous future, putting people and science at the centre of the sustainability transition.
About the UN Environment Programme
The UN Environment Programme is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
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