The theme of this years’ World Environment Day is lifestyles and an opportunity to reflect on the central issue of global environmentalism – how a continually growing economic system can fit within a finite ecological system.
In an interdependent world the patterns, trends and drivers of global change are at the heart of the climate negotiations. International cooperation was expressed in 1992 in terms of burden sharing, and applied only to industrialized countries. The new rules for the post-2020 regime will determine aggregate emissions pathways in the context of global ecological limits, apply to all countries and burden sharing will be based on criteria considering whether the measures are fair and adequate.
Aggregate emission pathways and related national measures reflect changing patterns of energy use and evolve with economic development. In the industrial stages of development an economy largely consumes energy to produce goods. In the more mature stages of development, as incomes grow, energy use becomes more important in supporting urban living and transport based on lifestyles. For example, around two-thirds of global emissions of carbon dioxide occurred in industrialized countries in the period after 1970, and two-thirds of their carbon dioxide emissions are now coming from the services, households and travel sectors. Consequently, societal change in rich countries, particularly the United States, needs public support. Climate policy is really about standards of living and lifestyles, central to the domestic agenda of all countries.