Are We Missing the Opportunity of Low-Carbon Lifestyles? International Climate Policy Commitments and Demand-Side Gaps

In Sustainability
Volume (Issue): 13(22)
Peer-reviewed Article

Current commitments in nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are insufficient to remain within the 2-degree climate change limit agreed to in the Paris Agreement. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that lifestyle changes are now necessary to stay within the limit. We reviewed a range of NDCs and national climate change strategies to identify inclusion of low-carbon lifestyles. We found that most NDCs and national climate change strategies do not yet include the full range of necessary mitigation measures targeting lifestyle change, particularly those that could reduce indirect emissions. Some exceptional NDCs, such as those of Austria, Slovakia, Portugal and the Netherlands, do include lifestyle changes, such as low-carbon diets, reduced material consumption, and low-carbon mobility. Most countries focus on supply-side measures with long lag times and might miss the window of opportunity to shape low-carbon lifestyle patterns, particularly those at early stages of development trajectories. Systemic barriers exist that should be corrected before new NDCs are released, including changing the accounting and reporting methodology, accounting for extraterritorial emissions, providing guidance on NDC scope to include the menu of options identified by the IPCC, and increasing support for national level studies to design demand-side policies.