Consumer lifestyles and climate change: Assessing the mitigation potentials of lifestyle changes for the Paris Agreement targets

Event: 10th International Conference on Industrial Ecology
Date: July 11, 2019

In this study, carbon footprints of households are estimated based on a combination of physical consumption and monetary-based data. Long-term targets for carbon footprints are established based on a review of existing emission scenarios. Hotspots for lifestyle carbon footprints, in nutrition, housing, mobility, and other domains, are identified based on gap analysis with long-term targets. Furthermore, various low-carbon lifestyle options were identified using literature review, and their
impacts on footprint reductions have been estimated based on the collected data of physical consumption and carbon intensity. Primary case studies are on Finland and Japan, with supplementary analysis on other countries. The preliminary results revealed the necessity for significant reductions in lifestyle carbon footprints of over 80-90% by 2050, and in major lifestyle hotspots, such as meat and dairy consumption, car and air travel, and fossil-fuel based energy. The reduction potentials from the full and partial adoption of more than 30 low-carbon lifestyle options were evaluated. A comparison of current footprints and potential reductions with long-term reduction targets revealed that very ambitious, urgent actions towards low-carbon shifts of consumer lifestyles are necessary. The results demonstrate that combining physical- with monetary-based data is useful for estimating lifestyle carbon footprints by ensuring both granularity and coverage of estimation, and evaluating potential impacts from lifestyle changes. The findings also suggest the need for further assessment of lifestyle carbon footprints, including hotspot and gap analysis and evaluation of low-carbon options diffeerent countries. The study contributes to a better understanding of the characteristics and potentials of low-carbon consumer lifestyles as an integral part of climate change mitigation, complementing technology-based solutions.