Towards Strong Sustainable Consumption Governance

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Towards Strong Sustainable Consumption Governance

  1. 1. Towards Strong Sustainable Consumption Governance Presentation held at the conference: Making an Impact – Collective Actions Towards Sustainable Consumption and Production Brussels 08.12.2009 Sylvia Lorek www.seri.at
  2. 2. (Mis-) Understandings of Sustainable Consumption What to make sustainable If people talk about Sustainable Consumption what do they understand “consumption” stands for? • Household consumption (e.g. consumption habits, possession of single items) • Consumption in economic terms (private consumption + public consumption) • Resource consumption (business and industries also consume) Sustainable Consumption has to reflect resource consumption if not  those seen as the consumers might be blamed as those with the main responsibility  discussions might get lost in marginal‘s instead of relevant impacts Sylvia Lorek Collective Actions Towards Sustainable Consumption and Production 2
  3. 3. (Mis-) Understandings of Sustainable Consumption Why making consumption sustainable? The major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, … which is a matter of grave concern, aggravating poverty and imbalances (Agenda 21) “the use of services and related products which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimising the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life-cycle so as not to jeopardise the needs of future generations.” (Oslo Symposium 1994) Sustainable Consumption has an environment and a development aspect The well-being of people matters! …and their (resource) consumption is an aspect in it Sylvia Lorek Collective Actions Towards Sustainable Consumption and Production 3
  4. 4. Debunking Weak Sustainable Consumption Shortcomings of recent Weak Sustainable Consumption policies: • Concentration on environmental aspects and their technological solution • Search for solutions focusing on goods and services in form of commodities • Economic growth as the major indicator for a ‘better life’ This neglects that: • The dimension and urgency of the problem • Rebound and growth effects compensate technological efficiency gains • Well-being is correlated with material consumption up to a specific level only • Well-being also depends on social aspects Sylvia Lorek Collective Actions Towards Sustainable Consumption and Production 4
  5. 5. Debunking Weak Sustainable Consumption The I=P*A*T formula Impact on the environment = Population x Affluence x Technology What we know: Impact↓ = Population↑ What Weak Sustainable Consumption promotes: Affluence↑ What we don’t know: Technology (?) The hope of the proponents of weak sustainable consumption solely rests on the optimistic view about (upcoming) technological solutions Sylvia Lorek Collective Actions Towards Sustainable Consumption and Production 5
  6. 6. Debunking Weak Sustainable Consumption Real state of the world Technology can Technology can‘t Current Policy solve the problems solve the problems Weak Sustainable High Desaster Consumption policy Strong Sustainable Moderate Tolerable Consumption policy Source: adopted from Costanza (1991) Sylvia Lorek Collective Actions Towards Sustainable Consumption and Production 6
  7. 7. Towards Strong Sustainable Consumption Governance What makes the difference of Strong Sustainable Consumption? • It questions affluence and its underlying growth paradigm (I↓ = P↑ x A ↓ x T?) • It demands reallocation of resources to those with the highest marginal utility rate, the poor • It supports well-being decoupled from market activities and economic growth rates Sylvia Lorek Collective Actions Towards Sustainable Consumption and Production 7
  8. 8. Towards Strong Sustainable Consumption Governance Governance strategies for Strong Sustainable Consumption • Appreciate the potential of social innovation • Sharpen NGO strategies • Strengthen responsibility of governments • Carrot and stick to stimulate the societal debate Stick: create a sense of urgency  there is no alternative Carrot: well-being depends on more than growth, de-growth if organised is not the desaster economists like to suggest Sylvia Lorek Collective Actions Towards Sustainable Consumption and Production 8

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