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Mitigation solutions are often evaluated in terms of costs and greenhouse gas reduction potentials, missing out on the consideration of direct effects on human well-being. Here, we systematically assess the mitigation potential of demand-side options categorized into avoid, shift and improve, and their human well-being links. We show that these options, bridging socio-behavioural, infrastructural and technological domains, can reduce counterfactual sectoral emissions by 40–80% in end-use sectors. Based on expert judgement and an extensive literature database, we evaluate 306 combinations of well-being outcomes and demand-side options, finding largely beneficial effects in improvement in well-being (79% positive, 18% neutral and 3% negative), even though we find low confidence on the social dimensions of well-being. Implementing such nuanced solutions is based axiomatically on an understanding of malleable rather than fixed preferences, and procedurally on changing infrastructures and choice architectures. Results demonstrate the high mitigation potential of demand-side mitigation options that are synergistic with well-being. Evaluation of mitigation actions often focuses on cost and overlooks the direct effects on well-being. This work shows demand-side measures have large mitigation potential and beneficial effects on well-being outcomes.
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https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-021-01219-y
1Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Berlin, Germany. 2Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany. 3Australian
National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 4Priestley International Centre for Climate, School of Earth and Environment,
University of Leeds, Leeds, UK. 5University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK. 6Universidad Veracruzana, Veracruz, Mexico. 7Copenhagen Business School,
Copenhagen, Denmark. 8International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria. 9European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Ispra,
Italy. 10University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA. 11IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Gothenburg, Sweden. 12Potsdam Institute for
Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany. 13University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. 14National Observatory of Athens, Athens, Greece. 15University College
London, London, UK. 16Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Kanagawa, Japan. 17Ahmedabad University, Ahmedabad, India. 18York University,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 19Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand. 20Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. 21Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA. 22OpenExp, Paris, France. 23Faculty of Geosciences and Environment, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.
24University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands. 25Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. 26These authors contributed equally:
Felix Creutzig, Leila Niamir e-mail: creutzig@mcc-berlin.net
Demand-side mitigation options are increasingly discussed
in the literature—for example, refs. 13. However, a consis-
tent evaluation in terms of both their overall potential and
societal implications is lacking. Even for an ambitious 1.5 °C tar-
get, several mitigation strategies are plausible, ranging from high
dependence on new energy infrastructures to low-demand path-
ways4. Evaluation of these options, mostly from a macroeconomic
cost–benefit perspective, is relevant but it fails to reflect the wider
impacts through benefits and costs of mitigation strategies from the
human well-being perspective5.
There are three closely related shortcomings. First, mitigation
options on the demand side—such as choices toward transport
mode for mobility patterns and building design, size and use—
interact with the well-being of end users and citizens. Evaluation of
the marginal monetary costs of these measures, if they can be mon-
etized at all, hardly reflects their full impacts. Second, a focus on
costs leads to a tendency to preferably evaluate those solutions that
have precise direct market cost values attached, neglecting more
systemic or uncertain solutions where market prices are difficult
to evaluate or not relevant6. Third, income and expenditures reflect
only a part of well-being, and monetary cost evaluations, even if
starting from a broader framework, often ignore encompassing
views on multiple dimensions of well-being. This critique is not new
and, on the aggregate scale, there is agreement among economists
and philosophers, and in other disciplines, that metrics such as
gross domestic product (GDP) insufficiently reflect well-being, and
that these must be complemented by more encompassing metrics7.
These considerations motivate two related questions: first, what
is the climate change mitigation potential of demand-side mitiga-
tion options? Second, what are the implications for well-being of
these demand-side mitigation options? In particular, answer-
ing the second question is a considerable challenge because there
is no single straightforward and agreed on metric of well-being.
Well-being can be considered at both the macro level—for example,
in ten country-level well-being domains by the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development8—and at the micro level,
Demand-side solutions to climate change
mitigation consistent with high levels of
well-being
Felix Creutzig 1,2,26 ✉ , Leila Niamir 1,26, Xuemei Bai 3, Max Callaghan 1,4, Jonathan Cullen 5,
Julio Díaz-José 6, Maria Figueroa7, Arnulf Grubler8, William F. Lamb 1,4, Adrian Leip 9,
Eric Masanet 10, Érika Mata11, Linus Mattauch2,12,13, Jan C. Minx 1,4, Sebastian Mirasgedis14,
Yacob Mulugetta15, Sudarmanto Budi Nugroho 16, Minal Pathak17, Patricia Perkins18,
Joyashree Roy19,20, Stephane de la Rue du Can 21, Yamina Saheb22,23, Shreya Some 17,20,
Linda Steg 24, Julia Steinberger23 and Diana Ürge-Vorsatz25
Mitigation solutions are often evaluated in terms of costs and greenhouse gas reduction potentials, missing out on the con-
sideration of direct effects on human well-being. Here, we systematically assess the mitigation potential of demand-side
options categorized into avoid, shift and improve, and their human well-being links. We show that these options, bridging
socio-behavioural, infrastructural and technological domains, can reduce counterfactual sectoral emissions by 40–80% in
end-use sectors. Based on expert judgement and an extensive literature database, we evaluate 306 combinations of well-being
outcomes and demand-side options, finding largely beneficial effects in improvement in well-being (79% positive, 18% neutral
and 3% negative), even though we find low confidence on the social dimensions of well-being. Implementing such nuanced
solutions is based axiomatically on an understanding of malleable rather than fixed preferences, and procedurally on changing
infrastructures and choice architectures. Results demonstrate the high mitigation potential of demand-side mitigation options
that are synergistic with well-being.
NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE | VOL 12 | JANUARY 2022 | 36–46 | www.nature.com/natureclimatechange
36
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... Meanwhile, improper disposal of used lithium batteries from EVs can have toxic effects on human and environmental health [88]. Transport-related choices affect the wellbeing of end users, with notable health impacts due to air pollution and noise pollution [89]. Lastly, electric vehicle value chains have social ramifications that should be considered [90]. ...
... However, this research has indicated, alongside other studies [39,41,89,91], that EVs are only able to provide limited decarbonization potential in regions with high grid carbon intensities. Consequently, it is debatable whether promoting the adoption of EVs in states with highly carbon intense grids, such as Alaska and Iowa, should be a priority. ...
... Areas with low-carbon grids, such as Canada, Québec, and Oregon, can focus more on transport policies. This transport policy could follow the three pillars of an avoidshift-improve strategy, as suggested by the literature, with a view to full-scale electrification by 2050 [75,89]. ...
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Electrification is considered key to decarbonizing the transport sector. While electric vehicles (EVs) lack tailpipe emissions, battery and electricity production can lead to significant emissions. This study analysed whether EVs can effectively mitigate GHG emissions in North America, by calculating two GHG breakeven indicators for EVs and comparing them to internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs). EV life cycle emissions were compared to those of ICEVs in Canada, Mexico, and the USA. In addition, this study considered potential national electricity grids evolutions and improvements in battery production and vehicle efficiency. The study estimated that EVs in Canada, the USA, and Mexico would see environmental benefits after 18.0, 25.1, and 25.6 thousand driven kilometres, respectively, as compared to petrol vehicles. Regionally, Québec had the lowest emissions (12.9 tCO2eq) for EVs while Iowa (62.0) had the highest. In several states, EVs did not outperform ICEVs. Emissions from EVs are expected to decrease in coming years as the carbon intensity of electrical grids decreases. Policies should consider prioritising grid decarbonization over EV uptake where regional grid GHG intensity is high. This work provides one of the first regional and international case studies determining the environmental breakeven points of EVs when considering trade.
... Well-designed climate mitigation policies ameliorate constituents of well-being (Creutzig et al. 2021b). The study shows that of all demandside option effects on well-being, 79% are positive, 18% are neutral (or not relevant or specified), and only 3% are negative (high confidence) (Creutzig et al. 2021b) ( Figure 5.6). Figure 5.6 illustrates that active mobility (cycling and walking), efficient buildings and prosumer choices of renewable technologies have the most encompassing beneficial effects on well-being, with no negative outcomes detected. ...
... Well-designed climate mitigation policies ameliorate constituents of well-being (Creutzig et al. 2021b). The study shows that of all demandside option effects on well-being, 79% are positive, 18% are neutral (or not relevant or specified), and only 3% are negative (high confidence) (Creutzig et al. 2021b) ( Figure 5.6). Figure 5.6 illustrates that active mobility (cycling and walking), efficient buildings and prosumer choices of renewable technologies have the most encompassing beneficial effects on well-being, with no negative outcomes detected. Urban and industry strategies are highly positive overall for wellbeing, but they will also reshape supply-side businesses with transient intermediate negative effects. ...
... Cities and built environments can play an additional role. For example, more compact designs and higher accessibility reduce travel demand and translate into lower average floor space and corresponding heating/cooling and lighting demand, and thus reductions of between 5% to 20% of GHG emissions of end-use sectors (Creutzig et al. 2021b). Avoidance of food loss and wastage -which equalled 8-10% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions from 2010-2016 (Mbow et al. 2019), while millions suffer from hunger and malnutritionis a prime example (Chapter 12). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Chapter 5 (Demand, services and social aspects of mitigation), explores how mitigation interacts with meeting human needs and access to services. It explores, inter alia: sustainable production and consumption; patterns of development and indicators of wellbeing; the role of culture, social norms, practices and behaviour changes; the sharing economy and circular economy; and policies facilitating behavioural and lifestyle change. This chapter is part of the Working Group III contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Electronic copies of this chapter are available from the IPCC website www.ipcc.ch; and https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGIII_Chapter05.pdf
... Within this context, shifting consumers towards more sustainable food consumption and avoiding food waste and loss (FWL) have been identi ed as two key levers to tackle climate change at the individual and household level (Creutzig et al., 2022;Dubois et al., 2019;Reisch, 2021;Reisch et al., 2021). Moreover, in uecing or steering people's food choices through targeted policy interventions, previously "off-limits" for policymakers, is increasingly being considered by governments around the world, given the urgent need to curb climate change and biodiversity loss (Stern, 2022). ...
... The objective of this research is to conduct a machine-learning assisted systematic review and metaanalysis of the empirical literature exploring the behaviour-change potential of demand-side interventions targeting food consumption and food waste behaviours at the individual and household level. We focus on two key areas of behaviour change which hold signi cant emissions mitigation potential in the food sector: (1) Shifting consumers towards sustainable food consumption and (2) avoiding food waste and loss (Creutzig et al., 2022). ...
Preprint
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It is now widely accepted that a significant portion of emissions reductions required to meet net zero targets must come from individual behaviour change. Shifting consumers towards more sustainable food consumption and avoiding food waste and loss (FWL) have been identified as two key levers to tackle climate change at the individual and household level. While the IPCC estimates substantial “technical potential” to reduce emissions via changes in diets and reductions in FWL, there is a lack of learning on which climate solutions can best harness this potential. The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to synthesise the empirical literature reporting on demand-side interventions targeting sustainble food consumption and food waste behaviours of individuals and households. The review encompasses empirical research evaluating a wide range of policy interventions targeted at changing actual food consumption and waste behaviours, which have the potential to contribute towards climate change mitigation. The review forms part of an ‘ecosystem of reviews’, a large-scale evidence synthesis initiative seeking to provide a comprehensive analysis of household-scale interventions and their emissions reduction potential. The reviews within the ecosystem utilise state-of-the-art AI-assisted screening procedures and follow a set of harmonised inclusion criteria.
... The unsustainable lock-ins in socio-cultural norms act as structural barriers to climate mitigation because they reinforce behaviours that are geared to catch up with increasingly higher affluence and status consumption (Creutzig et al., 2022b;IPCC AR6 WGIII, Chapter 5, 2022;Wiedmann et al., 2020). Without addressing the well-being implication of these social normsrelated lock-ins, new products and services to reduce consumer footprint can lead to unsustainable rebound effects. ...
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An urgent case for climate change action that forcefully sets out, in economic, ethical, and political terms, the dangers of delay and the benefits of action. The risks of climate change are potentially immense. The benefits of taking action are also clear: we can see that economic development, reduced emissions, and creative adaptation go hand in hand. A committed and strong low-carbon transition could trigger a new wave of economic and technological transformation and investment, a new era of global and sustainable prosperity. Why, then, are we waiting? In this book, Nicholas Stern explains why, notwithstanding the great attractions of a new path, it has been so difficult to tackle climate change effectively. He makes a compelling case for climate action now and sets out the forms that action should take. Stern argues that the risks and costs of climate change are worse than estimated in the landmark Stern Review in 2006—and far worse than implied by standard economic models. He reminds us that we have a choice. We can rely on past technologies, methods, and institutions—or we can embrace change, innovation, and international collaboration. The first might bring us some short-term growth but would lead eventually to chaos, conflict, and destruction. The second could bring about better lives for all and growth that is sustainable over the long term, and help win the battle against worldwide poverty. The science warns of the dangers of neglect; the economics and technology show what we can do and the great benefits that will follow; an examination of the ethics points strongly to a moral imperative for action. Why are we waiting?