A major new European study reports that individuals have a major role to play in tackling climate change – as significant an impact as major corporations – but only if they can be encouraged to make significant lifestyle changes by effective government policies.
Personal choices will get is so far – but government leadership will be needed to help incentivise emissions-reducing choices and behaviours.
According to the study, voluntary lifestyle choices by committed individuals would only achieve half the emission reductions needed to hit the 1.5 C Paris Agreement goal. Looking at this with a glass-half-full, that’s a massive contribution we can all make.
However, the study uses this to suggest that to hit the Paris targets, governments should bolster voluntary choices with policies encouraging reduced meat consumption and fewer miles in cars and planes.
Household emissions are responsible for about 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. While households in the study might support policy initiatives that encourage more sustainable food production, they resisted initiatives that restricted personal choice around meat consumption, and transport options where some of the biggest emissions reductions might be achieved. Not surprisingly these are the areas where the study found the least policy activity from governments to date.
A report from Science Daily on the study can be found here.
Regardless of government action, individual action is important, and meaningful. I find that reassuring and motivating.