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.

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