Tag Archives: sustainable consumption and production

Recommendation to consider the crucial impacts of trends in smaller household size on sustainable development goals

The Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation on sustainable consumption and production, and the Rio+20 Declaration have consistently emphasized the essentiality of promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production to realize objectives of and requirements for sustainable development. To support these goals, this brief makes a recommendation to consider the crucial impacts of trends in smaller household size.

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Reframing Social Housing as an Infrastructure of Production and Consumption

In the classical triangular model of sustainability, the 3-Es (Economic development, Environmental protection, and social Equity), are given equal weight (Campbell 1996). However, in climate change research related to the built environment—the sector of the economy that contributes most to GHG emissions—social equity is rarely considered (Oden 2010). In the context of the built environment, equity is typically understood to mean the provision of housing for the poor by government, and is generally perceived as a social issue separate from the more technical problems of designing low-entropy buildings. In technical terms, equity is generally placed outside the system boundaries of sustainable building technology (Odum 1994 [1983]), creating a large gap between the science and social policy of climate change in the built environment.

Being thus marginalized by building science, housing the poor is viewed by society as an unfortunate, yet necessary, public entitlement required to keep the poor from becoming
further burdens (either through unemployment, ill-health or political unrest) to the more affluent citizens who pay taxes (Mueller 2013). Research demonstrates this to be a shortsighted and ideological way to understand the opportunities inherent in social equity generally, and social housing in particular (Benner et al 2013).

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Decoupling Growth from Resource Generation

Global economic and social development over the last two centuries has been largely achieved through intensive, inefficient and unsustainable use of the earth’s finite resources. Over the course of the 20th century global resource extraction and use increased by around a factor of 89. Global population grew around half as fast and GDP grew at a significantly higher rate (by a factor of 23). Given a world population that grows by 200,000 people each day and especially a rapidly growing global “middle class” associated with resource-intensive consumption patterns, the demand for natural resources will continue to increase. According to the Global Footprint Network, if current economic and production trends persist, we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us by 2030.

The global challenge today is to lift one billion people out of absolute poverty and to set the pathway for meeting the needs of nine billion people in 2050 while keeping climate change, biodiversity loss and health threats within acceptable limits (“planetary boundaries”). For present and future well-being, there is a need to achieve sustainable resource management by decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from human well-being.

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How New Metrics for Sustainable Agriculture Can Align the Roles of Government and Business

In three decades the potential for the private sector to make a positive difference in development has garnered increasing credence and support (Schmidheiny 1992; Porter, Ketels,
& Delgado 2007). This aligns with increasing acceptance that being sustainability-oriented can also benefit a firm’s market performance (Eccles et al. 2011). It is clear that the private sector will have to be an important part of any effort to attain the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It has likewise become clear that for agricultural producers merely participating in markets or trade is not sufficient to ensure poverty reduction and increase sustainability (Hopkins 2007; Jaffee et al. 2011).

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Planning and Implementing Action for Sustainable Agriculture

For global agriculture systems to produce enough food to sustainably feed nine or ten billion people by 2050, there will have to be a shift in consumer and producer behavior and a structural change toward more sophisticated technologies, information and knowledge management systems, and policies that promote market-based incentives for growth.

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Transformative changes of agriculture and food systems

It is hard to exaggerate the role that agriculture plays in human development. From providing basic sustenance to employing millions of farmers worldwide, agriculture is a fundamental part of almost all societies and economies. Yet, agricultural systems must adapt, even transform, to meet a growing number of challenges and constraints. This transformation is crucial for achieving many of the post-2015 SDGs.

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Synergies between healthy and sustainable diets

In its efforts to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets, international policy has focused almost exclusively on the energy sector. Yet, as the global population and per capita demand for food both increase, emissions from agricultural sources risk jeopardising the achievement of those climate targets, as they already account for over a quarter of all anthropogenic emissions. The risk is heightened if the increasing demand for food causes further agricultural expansion and land cover change. Furthermore, increasing per capita food consumption, and also the share of livestock products, can have adverse effects on human health. There is accordingly a close interdependence between consumption patterns, human health and the sustainability of the earth system. Well-designed policies targeting the demand for particular foods could simultaneously improve the health of the global population, and restrict greenhouse gas emissions along with the impacts of land cover change. This briefing paper reviews and summarises evidence for this claim, and urges the need for policies that seek to achieve both better human health and environmental sustainability.

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Achieving Sustainable Energy Consumption in Tanzania

The synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda states that “innovation and investment in sustainable and resilient infrastructure, cities and settlements, industrialization, small and medium-sized enterprises, energy and technology can both generate employment and remedy negative environmental trends” (§ 73). The reform of Tanzania’s science, technology, and innovation (STI) system that got underway in 2008 under UNESCO leadership places this country in an excellent position to strengthen the energy and technology system as part of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

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Design and diffusion of smart energy monitors for sustainable household consumption

The synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post- 2015 sustainable development agenda acknowledges that “new technologies can open up more sustainable approaches and more efficient practices” (§ 31). Contemporary research and development efforts have led to the emergence of energy measurement technologies for residential use. However, the deployment of smart energy feedback systems has been limited thus far to just a handful of countries. The following summary of “lessons learned” from energy monitoring studies provides a basis for global expansion of smart energy feedback systems.

The supply consequences of unbridled energy use on the environment have long attracted the attention of planners and policymakers whose decisions ultimately thrust consumers into a central role through household-based sustainable energy consumption policies (OECD, 2008). These policy strategies may be said to have three parts: the design of user-centered energy monitoring tools to inform household decisions; attention to social and cultural factors that influence household energy practices even with the availability of smart energy monitors; and the expansion of household-level collection of energy use patterns within the system of national accounts to permit within-country and international comparisons for sustainable consumption.

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Towards an energy efficient oil and gas sector

Hydrocarbons have played one of the most crucial roles in economic history by fuelling globalisation and industrialisation. Today, oil and natural gas form a key lifeline of the global economy, contributing to a 56.6% share in global energy consumption (BP, 2014). Further, in spite of the recent worldwide thrust provided to the renewable sector, International Energy Agency’s (IEA) (2014) World Economic Outlook for 2040 projects that oil and gas will remain the single largest energy source throughout the projection period (see Figure 1), as developing countries experience growth. In particular, transport, heating, and cooking energy requirements will largely continue to be powered by oil and natural gas. The continued dominance of hydrocarbons in the energy mix can be explained by the presence of a lock-in of fossil fuel energy systems. This carbon lock-in has occurred globally through the systemic co-evolution of technology and institutions, thus creating a Techno-Institutional Complex of high fossil fuel intensity (Unruh, 2000). Such a lock-in is among the biggest barriers to climate change mitigation and sustainability.

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物质消费减量化: 物质消费减量化:一个可持续消费研究综述 一个可持续消费研究综述 (Reducing material consumption: a literature review on sustainable consumption)

This brief is submitted in the Chinese language. The full brief could be accessed through the below link. Your comments could be in either English or Chinese.

摘 要
源于环境保护的可持续消费研究,重点探讨在消费中如何减少物质、能源消耗,减少废弃物的排放即物质减量化。对 于物质消费减量化的影响因素,主要集中在三个研究领域:一是批判和扩展新古典经济学中的“经济人”假设。二是分析物质密集型 消费的驱动力。三是通过环境友好型消费行为模型讨论影响因素。物质消费的减量化途径主要有两条:一是通过技术进步、生产过程 的改进或环境友好型的设计,减少单位消费的资源消耗,这种不减少总消费量的消费也称为弱可持续消费。弱可持续消费可能对经济 增长具有促进作用,但依赖于环境友好型技术的出现。二是降低消费总量,也称为强可持续消费。由于消费的减少将会降低经济增长 速度,因而一个片面追求经济增长的社会,也必然不支持可持续消费。


基于因子分析的中美居民消费阶段划分及对比分析 (Comparative study of the consumption patterns of American and Chinese household using factor analysis)

This brief is submitted in the Chinese language. The full brief could be accessed through the below link. Your comments could be in either English or Chinese.

摘 要
美国作为消费水平较高的发达国家,我国作为最大的发展中国家将经历美国居民已经经历过的消费阶段,找出我国现阶 段的消费水平相当于美国了历史上的哪一时期对指导我国借鉴美国制定新的消费政策具有很强的现实意义。本文利用因子分析的方 法,将美国 1929-2001 年划分为三个消费阶段,将中国 1984-2011 年划分为三个消费阶段。结果显示,中国 2001-2011 年的消费水平 仅相当于美国 1950-1960 年的消费水平,虽然消费水平相当,但是两国居民的消费结构却存在着差异。中国居民食物支出占比较高, 导致恩格尔系数持续偏高,居民消费率不足依然是我国现阶段面临的重大难题。


Assessing sustainability of local production systems: A proposal based on socio-ecological resilience and collaboration

Sustainability and resilience are considered the base for reaching a balanced functioning of socio-ecological systems, facing internal conditions and external shocks. However, there is no agreement on how to get a good measure of both concepts to allow for managing local production systems in that sense. An interdisciplinary research group from seven universities in the Centre-West of Argentina, have developed an analytic-methodological proposal to
assess sustainability of local production systems, based on the concept of resilience of socio-ecological systems (RA, 2010). The result of its two-year research, a methodology for assessing sustainability of production systems is presented in this brief. The possibility for applying this methodology rests on a collaborative process between science and policy to improve resilience, and therefore sustainability of local production systems.

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From conspicuous consumption to conspicuous accomplishment

The new international development framework will be universal and place people and planet at the centre. The emphasis on “people”, in addition to the “planet”, will require a focus on the social dimension of sustainable development, as choices have to be made about pathways for human wellbeing based on how countries understand themselves and the world their citizens wish to live in.

A century ago, the economist Torstein Veblen coined the term “conspicuous consumption” to characterize the materialism of newly well-to-do Americans. The term “conspicuous accomplishment” has been suggested for China’s young nouveaux riches, as the compressed time frame and memories of previous austere lifestyles are leading to behaviors and expectations different to those in industrialized societies in terms of urban spaces, social status, lifestyles and identities, as well as social values that are not based on monetary, which are seen as Western, values. In India, half of the total urban population is found in towns each with a population of less than 0.5 million and “middle class” identification is based on social attitudes that are upbeat even at low
level of incomes.

China considers ‘ecological civilization’ a governing idea and national strategy for the whole society. While it aims to double 2010 GDP and per capita levels of rural and urban residents by 2050 it will cap emissions of carbon dioxide by 2030, providing a new model for other countries. The 18th Party Congress, in 2012,incorporated in the Party Constitution the statement that “promoting ecological progress is a long term task of vital importance to the people’s well-being and China’s future”. The effort is to shift from industrialization led economic development and urbanization to a services and high technology led development and urbanization to keep within ecological limits.

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