What Next for Sustainable Development?
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What Next for Sustainable Development?

Our Common Future at Thirty

Edited by James Meadowcroft, David Banister, Erling Holden, Oluf Langhelle, Kristin Linnerud and Geoffrey Gilpin

This book examines the international experience with sustainable development since the concept was brought to world-wide attention in Our Common Future, the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds engage with three critical themes: negotiating environmental limits; equity, environment and development; and transitions and transformations. In light of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals recently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, they ask what lies ahead for sustainable development.
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Chapter 8: Necessities and luxuries: how to combine redistribution with sustainable consumption

Ian Gough


This chapter starts from the claim that green growth, or raising eco-efficiency, will not suffice to curb dangerous climate change for two reasons: it cannot succeed alone in reducing the cumulative stock of greenhouse gases fast enough and it pays little or no attention to issues of fairness and justice. The author reverts to the concept of common human needs which he argues provides the crucial foundation for a just transition to a sustainable low-carbon world. The chapter distinguishes three broad strategies within rich countries to limit climate change in a just way: fair eco-efficiency, fair sustainable consumption, and fair de-growth. The chapter then discusses inequality and reflects on the influence of the rising income and wealth inequality on the distribution of consumption-based emissions between and within countries—a phenomenon some have labelled the Plutocene. The chapter makes the case for ‘recomposing consumption’ by returning to need theory. Necessities can be distinguished from luxuries and this enables us to envisage and target a fair ‘consumption corridor’ between minimum and maximum consumption levels. Achieving this in a democratic society will require new forms of deliberative citizen forums calling upon expert advice. Three further eco-social policies are advocated to shift rich countries towards more sustainable consumption practices.

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