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Getting lasting prosperity through consuming less

The Climate Change Committee has just published its second progress report to parliament. In its audit of emissions there is a glaring and obvious truth: when we consume less as individuals, our national emissions go down[1].

Buying less stuff means less heating and cooling in manufacturing plants, less road miles delivering goods and less coal being burnt in power stations to fuel factories.

Turning household temperature levels down by one degree, means less heat escaping out of leaky homes to heat the night sky.

Our recent drop in consumption has been driven by the recession, not some mass conversion of the public to the climate change cause, but it shows what can be achieved when we do things ‘less’ as a nation.  It also shows starkly that ‘growth’ has yet to be decoupled from emissions.

Consuming less is one of those topics that everyone shies away from. But, as Tim Jackson so eloquently described in his report last year Prosperity without growth, the possibility of a world where humans can still flourish and consume less is the best chance we have for lasting prosperity.

Recession proves we can consume less.  The question is, how to do the same in a boom?


[1] The Climate Change Committee’s Second Annual Report published on 20 June 2010 showed that emissions had dropped by 8.6% from 2008 to 2009.

Written by

Rebekah is a Green Alliance associate and freelance project manager and policy expert on green living projects. On a national level she specialises in the public communication of climate change and behaviour change policy. On a local level she manages projects that help enable and encourage sustainable living. Previously she led Green Alliance's Green Living theme. Prior to joining Green Alliance Rebekah was the Environment and Transport Policy Analyst for BBC News Analysis and Research. Rebekah has also worked for Elsevier Science in Amsterdam, for Landmine Action in Liberia and for Womankind Worldwide. For more information see http://www.rebekahphillips.co.uk/

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