1. We're not moving fast enough
As mentioned above, we're not moving fast enough in any of the consumer areas considered in the report, and for both food and consumer goods we actually appear to be moving in the wrong direction.
2. A sustainable lifestyle is not scary
The Climate Gap report is based on targets from the UK's Climate Change Committee, an independent body set up by the government in 2008. The future it maps out for 2030 currently looks like it only requires relavtively modest changes to the way we list now. Many of the main actions we have mapped out for reading these goals are starting to become familiar: cars and heating will need to be electrified, and we’ll need to reduce meat, dairy and other consumption to some degree. We’re planning to publish some more work on further prioritising consumer actions later this year.
However, for those who are able to go beyond these targets, it is important to do so, not least to balance out those who won’t or who are unable.
3. The necessary political engagement work looks harder
At Ethical Consumer we have long recognised that the decisions that consumers make, and around climate change particularly, very much depend on the frameworks that government and companies provide. We know that it is not particularly helpful to look at consumer choices or personal carbon footprints in isolation. Therefore, we have also looked at what companies and governments must do to support consumers in decarbonising their lifestyles.
It is the political work we need to do as citizens that looks harder than the consumer actions. The low-carbon lifestyle expert Mike Berners-Lee, when asked about the degree to which individuals should think about balancing the need to cut their own emissions with the need to take political action, suggested a roughly 60% to 40% split in favour of prioritising political action. UK citizens, campaigners and companies urgently need to build broad coalitions across all of the key impact areas identified in this report.
4. We need more information tracking consumer emissions
In order to create positive motivations to take action, feedback loops showing what impact we are collectively having (or not) are important. Yet, the quality of data out there is currently often poor. For example, the most recent firgures on meat consumption published by the government are from 2018-19.
We are therefore asking the government to consider working to address this area particularly. A dashboard of monthly-updated figures online would be a much-needed tool in this critical moment of climate emergency
5. Governments should make it mandatory for companies to report on their supply chain emissions
We are also asking governments to make it mandatory for all companies to report on their supply chain emissions by 2025. Although regulators are beginning to require companies to report on their own direct emissions, they are not yet requiring companies to do so for their supply chains. This is despite the evidence that often 80% of the emissions of consumer goods manufacture occurs here. It is hard to see how we can be sure that we are collectively on target on carbon reduction, particularly around the consumer goods impacts,
without this happening.