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The bare necessities: How much household carbon do we really need?

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  • Druckman, Angela
  • Jackson, Tim

Abstract

The consumption patterns of Western nations are generally deemed to be unsustainable. Yet there is little attempt to restrain either material throughput or income growth. Nonetheless, in the face of the need to make 'deep' cuts in carbon emissions (for instance), consumption restraint may be a perfectly legitimate response. This paper explores the potential for a Reduced Consumption Scenario in the UK constructed by assuming that households achieve a specific 'minimum income standard' which is deemed to provide a decent life for each household type. The minimum income standards are taken from a recent study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and include not only subsistence commodities such as food, warmth and shelter but also the means to participate effectively in society. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation study produced detailed household expenditure budgets for these income standards. The paper uses an environmentally extended Quasi-Multi-Regional Input-Output model to estimate the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions required in the production and distribution of all goods and services purchased according to these budgets. Our results show that average household GHG emissions in the UK would be around 37% lower in the Reduced Consumption Scenario than they are currently. We explore several implications of these findings including: the need to change social norms around consumption, the need for investment to improve the thermal performance of homes and the need to develop new transport infrastructures. We also address the potential to reduce emissions below the level achieved in this Scenario and discuss the implications for policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Druckman, Angela & Jackson, Tim, 2010. "The bare necessities: How much household carbon do we really need?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(9), pages 1794-1804, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:69:y:2010:i:9:p:1794-1804
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jackson, Tim & Papathanasopoulou, Eleni, 2008. "Luxury or 'lock-in'? An exploration of unsustainable consumption in the UK: 1968 to 2000," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1-2), pages 80-95, December.
    2. Druckman, A. & Jackson, T., 2008. "Household energy consumption in the UK: A highly geographically and socio-economically disaggregated model," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 3167-3182, August.
    3. Druckman, Angela & Jackson, Tim, 2009. "The carbon footprint of UK households 1990-2004: A socio-economically disaggregated, quasi-multi-regional input-output model," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(7), pages 2066-2077, May.
    4. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
    5. Druckman, A. & Bradley, P. & Papathanasopoulou, E. & Jackson, T., 2008. "Measuring progress towards carbon reduction in the UK," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(4), pages 594-604, July.
    6. Victor, Peter A. & Rosenbluth, Gideon, 2007. "Managing without growth," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2-3), pages 492-504, March.
    7. Alcott, Blake, 2008. "The sufficiency strategy: Would rich-world frugality lower environmental impact," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(4), pages 770-786, February.
    8. Carlsson-Kanyama, Annika, 1998. "Climate change and dietary choices -- how can emissions of greenhouse gases from food consumption be reduced?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(3-4), pages 277-293, November.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Anderson, Blake & M'Gonigle, Michael, 2012. "Does ecological economics have a future?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 37-48.
    2. Qian Wang & Qiao-Mei Liang & Bing Wang & Fang-Xun Zhong, 2016. "Impact of household expenditures on CO2 emissions in China: Income-determined or lifestyle-driven?," Natural Hazards: Journal of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, Springer;International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, vol. 84(1), pages 353-379, November.
    3. Misato Sato, 2014. "Embodied Carbon In Trade: A Survey Of The Empirical Literature," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(5), pages 831-861, December.
    4. repec:eee:ecolec:v:143:y:2018:i:c:p:294-313 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Charlier, Dorothée & Risch, Anna & Salmon, Claire, 2018. "Energy Burden Alleviation and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction: Can We Reach Two Objectives With One Policy?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 294-313.
    6. Brizga, Janis & Feng, Kuishuang & Hubacek, Klaus, 2017. "Household carbon footprints in the Baltic States: A global multi-regional input–output analysis from 1995 to 2011," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 189(C), pages 780-788.
    7. Büchs, Milena & Schnepf, Sylke V., 2013. "Who emits most? Associations between socio-economic factors and UK households' home energy, transport, indirect and total CO2 emissions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 114-123.
    8. Hadjikakou, Michalis, 2017. "Trimming the excess: environmental impacts of discretionary food consumption in Australia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 119-128.
    9. repec:kap:jbioec:v:19:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s10818-016-9238-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Perobelli, Fernando Salgueiro & Faria, Weslem Rodrigues & Vale, Vinicius de Almeida, 2015. "The increase in Brazilian household income and its impact on CO2 emissions: Evidence for 2003 and 2009 from input–output tables," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(PA), pages 228-239.
    11. Lutz Sager, 2017. "Income inequality and carbon consumption: evidence from environmental Engel curves," GRI Working Papers 285, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    12. Gough, Ian, 2015. "Macroeconomics, climate change and 'recomposition' of consumption," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 64438, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    13. Markaki, M. & Belegri-Roboli, A. & Sarafidis, Υ. & Mirasgedis, S., 2017. "The carbon footprint of Greek households (1995–2012)," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 206-215.
    14. Dorothée Charlier & Anna Risch & Claire Salmon, 2016. "Reducing the Energy Burden of the Poor and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Can We Kill Two Birds with One Stone?," Policy Papers 2016.01, FAERE - French Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.
    15. Brian G. Fitzgerald & Travis O'Doherty & Richard Moles & Bernadette O'Regan, 2015. "Quantitative Evaluation of Settlement Sustainability Policy (QESSP); Forward Planning for 26 Irish Settlements," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(2), pages 1-21, February.
    16. Manfred Lenzen & Robert A. Cummins, 2013. "Happiness versus the Environment—A Case Study of Australian Lifestyles," Challenges, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(1), pages 1-19, May.

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