Climate Change | Analysis and New Insights

Transitions for Sustainable Consumption After the Paris Agreement

Dale Southerton, Ph.D. and Daniel Welch, Ph.D. | November 2018


The Paris Agreement’s commitment to keep average global temperature change below 1.5? recognizes that “sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production” need to be a part of climate change policy, but their potential has yet to be acted upon. The disconnect between the pledges of countries through their Nationally Determined Contributions and where they need to be is one the UN Environment Programme calls “alarmingly high.” Sustainable consumption, which has not yet made its way to policy, is needed to help fill that gap.

In this policy analysis brief, Dale Southerton (University of Bristol) and Daniel Welch (Sustainable Consumption Institute at the University of Manchester) lay out how policymakers can approach sustainable consumption despite perceived complexities. This brief untangles individual behavior and systemic change approaches to sustainable consumption and offers new areas to examine as potential policy opportunities.

By understanding the importance of enacting social change at scale and undertaking efforts to lower emissions from a consumption perspective, policymakers will equip themselves and future generations with more substantive means to address the causes of global warming.