Avoid air travel, consume less meat, improve the insulation of your home: UN climate experts (IPCC) insist on the major role that a change in demand can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse effect.
• Read also: Humanity has less than three years to reverse the curve of greenhouse gas emissions
• Read also: ‘We are at a turning point’: Here’s what to take away from the alarming climate report
• Read also: Ways to avoid the worst of the climate catastrophe
When people consume services such as transport, housing, heating or food, they are responsible for direct and indirect CO2 emissions.
“If we make the right choices in policy, infrastructure and technology, we can change our lifestyles and behaviors, leading to a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from ‘here to 2050,’ sums up Priyadarshi Shukla, co-chair of the working group that produced the latest IPCC report, published on Monday.
The report bases its analysis on the “Avoid, change, improve” strategy: avoid very energy-intensive behaviours, switch to less emitting technologies for the same service, improve the energy efficiency of existing technologies. With a key word, “sobriety”.
In the “avoid” category, the biggest potential comes from reducing long-haul flights. Reducing their number and preferring the train when possible could reduce aviation emissions by 10 to 40% by 2040, according to the report.
In “change”, the most effective would be to switch to a plant-based diet, and increasing the energy efficiency of buildings wins first place in “improve”.
In general, the options concerning mobility choices are more efficient, for example changing your thermal car to an all-electric one (“improve”), taking one less long-haul flight per year (“avoiding”) or switching to a bicycle and walking (“changing”) in their daily movements.
Going vegetarian or even totally vegan would reduce emissions less than avoiding one long-haul flight per year.
The report also highlights the need to reduce all types of waste (energy, food, etc.).
“Choosing low-carbon options, such as living without a car, diets with little or no animal products, low-carbon sources of electricity and heating at home, and local holidays, can reduce the carbon footprint of an individual up to 9 tonnes of CO2 equivalent” per year, assesses the IPCC, without recommending any particular scenario.
But the annual carbon footprint of some humans is much lower than these 9 tons mentioned. For example, the average carbon footprint per inhabitant in Afghanistan does not even reach 1 tonne, while that of a French person reaches a little over 10 tonnes, and the differences within a country can be immense, from 1 to more than 100 tons.
Rich and poor are not equal when it comes to choices that some don’t have.
The poorest half of the world’s population is responsible for ‘only about 10%’ of consumption-related emissions, while about 50% of those emissions can be attributed to the richest 10%, whose carbon footprint is 175 times greater than the poorest 10%”, notes the IPCC.
Highlighting the difference between “necessity” and “luxury”, the report insists on the one hand on the need for a “decent” standard of living for all, and on the other on the fact that the richest can reduce their emissions maintaining their well-being.
Not just a matter of behavior
Refusing to blame this transition on individual actions, the IPCC stresses that reducing emissions through demand “is more than a change in behavior”.
Five “engines” must be activated together: “individuals (consumption choices), culture (social norms, values), companies (investments), institutions (political action), and infrastructure changes”.
For a citizen, embarking on the “avoid, change, improve” adventure requires “significant support” through public policies to break down “infrastructure, institutional and socio-cultural locks”.