Working Group III: Mitigation

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There are two reasons why lifestyles are an issue of climate policy. First, consumption patterns are an important factor in climate change since they have become an essential element of lifestyles in developed countries. If, for instance, people changed their preferences from cars to bicycles, this would alleviate climate change and decrease mitigation costs considerably. Second, many promising domains for substantial environmental improvements through technological change also require changes in lifestyle. With respect to traffic, for instance, to reach sustainability beyond that of increases in efficiency requires changes in the modal split and ultimately in urban planning (Deutscher Bundestag, 1994). Yet lifestyles have been subjected to far less systematic investigation than technology (Duchin, 1998, p. 51). In SAR they were not discussed at all.

The concept of lifestyle (Lebensführung) was introduced by Weber (1922). Lifestyle denotes a set of basic attitudes, values, and patterns of behaviour that are common to a social group, including patterns of consumption or anticonsumption. It seemed for a while that a change from environmentally less benign to more benign consumption patterns had emerged by itself (Inglehart, 1971, 1977) in the 1970s. What really happened, however, was not a switch from one coherent and dominant set of values to another, but an end of coherence through a pluralization of values (Mitchell, 1983; Reusswig, 1994; Douglas et al., 1998). Current lifestyles reflect this patchwork of values. Some of these, however, are environmentally more benign than others. The idea of promoting transfers from the latter to the former must take into account that lifestyles are not just a matter of behaving this or that way, but are basically an expression of people’s self-esteem (see below). Lifestyles, therefore, are based on ideas with respect to the individual’s identity. To this extent the issue is not only that individuals need to change their behaviour, but that they need to change themselves. This tends to be underestimated in policy considerations, but must be accounted for when such changes become relevant with respect to climate change. Otherwise discrepancies between people’s environmental consciousness and behaviour are deplored but not understood.

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