CONSUMPTION DISPARITY The Elephant in the COP26 Room Professor David Ness, University of South Australia


The Elephant in the COP26 Room

Professor David Ness, University of South Australia


Meeting ID: 659 9793 6146
Passcode: 507776

COP26 aims to agree on GHG emission reduction targets to limit temperature rise to 1.5o. However, if attention remains completely focused on renewables and energy efficiency, this ambition is unlikely to be achieved. As emphasised by Dr Yamina Saheb, lead author of IPCC WGIII on climate change mitigation, the focus needs to shift to sufficiency, within a fair consumption space for all: “…on empowering the Global South and on making the case for climate justice and equity considerations”.


This is not new. During the 1990s, pioneers of the Factor 10 Institute realised that the key issue at stake was unbalanced consumption on a global level, with 80% of the world’s resources being consumed by the wealthiest 20% of humanity – represented by the ‘champagne glass’ of disparity. They called for a Factor 10 rebalancing in consumption patterns, which would not only enable fair and equal access to resources, but also dramatically reduce emissions and biodiversity loss.


Against this background, the talk will explain ways and metrics by which resource disparities may be rebalanced. This necessitates a ‘shrinking’ in demand and consumption by wealthier, well-endowed societies of the Global North, making better use of what they have, while the deprived of the South may ‘expand’ their services, shelter, and infrastructure. A conceptual model will be presented, seeking to enable a social foundation for all within an ecological ceiling.


While discussing what 1.5o fair and sufficient lifestyles may entail, including food, transport, and personal goods, particular attention will be paid to the built environment sector, which consumes most natural resources and emits most carbon. Reference will be made to the speaker’s recent book about ‘The impact of overbuilding on people and the planet’, and its ramifications for a shift in focus at COP26.

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