In this report, the ZOE Institute makes the case that a policy landscape which equitably supports sustainable lifestyles is an integral part of the path towards achieving the European Union’s climate goals. While renewable energy, efficiency improvements, and technological advancement make important contributions to Europe’s climate strategy, a wealth of studies show that lifestyle changes are also essential in order to achieve a rapid enough transition.
Changing our ways of living has enormous potential to help close the gap between the current level of emissions and the much lower level necessary to achieve the 1.5°C target set in the Paris Agreement. For this to be possible, consumption-based carbon footprints will have to fall from a European average of 8.6 (tCO₂e) to a global average of 2.5 by 2030 and 0.7 by 2050. The hotspot areas food, housing and mobility are particularly significant, collectively accounting for ~75% of consumption-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In each of the three hotspot areas, unsustainable patterns of consumption can be clearly identified and targeted by reshaping the policy mix to better enable sustainable living instead of sustaining structures which support unsustainable consumption.
The report further demonstrates that to build the conditions for thriving sustainable lifestyles, equity considerations have to be woven into the heart of policy measures. Focusing on equity not only increases the impact of policy measures by targeting those with the greatest lifestyle carbon footprints, but also increases the acceptability of demand-side measures and thereby generates support for sustainable lifestyles.
As representatives of a region responsible for some of the world’s most carbon-intensive lifestyles, EU policymakers have both an opportunity and a responsibility to be pioneers in reducing lifestyle-related GHG emissions. This report proposes that equitable “1.5-Degree Lifestyles” are both achievable and necessary and encourages policymakers to further the pioneering spirit of Europe’s ambitious climate commitments by developing the conditions for equitable “1.5-Degree Lifestyles” in Europe.
The report Reducing Emissions through Equitable 1.5 Degree Lifestyles: An Essential Plank in Bridging the Emissions Gap is an instalment in the publication series Policy Pathways towards 1.5-Degree Lifestyles. The policy briefs in this series present insights from academic research and exchange between the ZOE Institute, policymakers, and other stakeholders, and serve as a basis for an ongoing set of thematic Policy Labs exploring how future-fit policy pathways for Europe can be created in the most carbon-intensive consumption sectors.