Green consumption energy use and carbon dioxide emission

University dissertation from Umeå : Kulturgeografi

Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to explore the quantitative potential to reduce energy requirements and CO2 emissions through changed patterns of consumption, given unchanged levels of consumption expenditure.The thesis question is analysed using a systems analysis approach which in this case means that life cycle assessment data on energy requirements and CO2 emissions related to household consumption are combined with a financial and behavioural analysis to make sure that the budget constraint is kept and that both the first and second order effects of adopting a green consumption pattern are analysed. The budget constraints are kept using a general linear model. By using marginal propensities to spend to direct the reallocation of saved or deficit money calculated utility is maintained as far as possible. Further, investigations explore the impact of individual household demographic characteristics and geographic context on household consumption patterns, energy requirements and CO2 emissions.The key result of this thesis is that changed household behaviour, choosing “green“ products and energy efficient technology will not make a big difference. What can be achieved in the short time perspective by adopting an almost completely green consumption pattern and energy efficient technology is a reduction of energy requirements by around 8% and CO2 emissions by around 13%. With a longer time perspective and further technological change that provides additional possibilities to move consumption patterns in a greener direction, the effect on energy requirements and CO2 emissions is still fairly small. By 2020, the potential to reduce energy requirements is around 13% and CO2 emissions around 25%. In the most extreme scenario (2050), the scope for reducing energy requirements is 17% and for CO2 emissions 30%. All these reductions will be outpaced by growth in income almost as soon as they are implemented.Of policy relevance the results reveal that very limited impact can be expected by a policy relying on greener consumption patterns, whether adopted voluntarily or as a result of incentives such as tax changes. Such a policy cannot achieve more than a small and temporary reduction to growth in energy requirements and CO2 emissions. It is also shown that, prescribing specific consumption patterns as a means of reducing energy requirements and CO2 emissions has to be done with care. This is illustrated by one of the experiments in which adopting a partly green consumption pattern, a green diet, in fact increased total energy requirements and CO2 emissions. This, and the results of all the other experiments show the importance of applying a systems approach. It demonstrates that life cycle data alone are irrelevant for assessing the total effects of adopting green consumption patterns. Further research on the potential to reduce energy requirements and CO2 emissions thus primarily needs to better capture system wide effects rather than to improve on, and fine tune the measurement of the energy requirements and CO2 emissions related to individual products.