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Heat, Greed and Human Need

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

This book builds an essential bridge between climate change and social policy. Combining ethics and human need theory with political economy and climate science, it offers a long-term, interdisciplinary analysis of the prospects for sustainable development and social justice. Beyond ‘green growth’ (which assumes an unprecedented rise in the emissions efficiency of production) it envisages two further policy stages vital for rich countries: a progressive ‘recomposition’ of consumption, and a post-growth ceiling on demand. An essential resource for scholars and policymakers.
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Chapter 7: Decarbonising consumption: needs, necessities and eco-social policies

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Extract

Chapter 7 turns from production to consumption and consumption-based emissions. This leads to another policy goal for the rich world: to ‘recompose’ consumption to make it more sustainable. Yet simply redistributing income to low-income households could raise, rather than lower, emissions. This chapter therefore returns to the theory of human need. It sets out a ‘dual strategy’ methodology for identifying a minimum bundle of necessary consumption items in the UK and suggesting how it might be used to identify a maximum bundle for sustainable consumption. In this way a ‘consumption corridor’ between upper unsustainable and lower unacceptable bounds can be charted. In the light of powerful corporate and other interests shaping consumer preferences a broad strategy of upstream prevention is advocated. To implement this approach, further eco-social policies are suggested, including taxing high-carbon luxuries, more social consumption, and household carbon rationing. The conclusion notes that this whole approach challenges some fundamental principles of orthodox economics.

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