Ahead of Durban
Posted date: 3 November 2011
The next round of international climate negotiations is almost upon us, this time in Durban, South Africa. The climate network known as the Haga Initiative, of which Axfood is a member, organised its own conference ahead of the negotiations.
The question is whether politicians are perhaps underestimating the willingness of voters to accept an active climate policy. There may not be support for measures that go far enough, but there is at least support for decisions that go further than those being taken today. Not all important decisions are particularly controversial. How many voters would protest if building regulations were really tightened when it comes to newbuilds and conversions? Most people would more likely be surprised to learn what high levels of energy consumption are permitted in new buildings. Nobody at our conference defended today’s meaningless building regulations in the field of energy.
Perhaps a good strategy for politicians would be to accept other people’s proposals for instruments of control, even if they are not entirely convinced of their absolute efficacy? A strategy based on supporting rather than fighting ideas for climate-related instruments of control could possibly lead to a broad consensus and open up opportunities for politicians who have the courage to take the lead. In fact, lack of leadership was an issue highlighted by several speakers at the conference.
In the area of food, the best lifestyle changes for the climate are to eat more vegetables and not to throw away so much food. And of course these measures also save money. But if a lifestyle change is really going to reduce the burden on the environment, then the pattern of consumption will have to be more focused on services. The first thing that comes to mind with regard to services is perhaps something like culture. However, service consumption can be interpreted much more broadly than that. Much of a product might be described as service consumption. If we take a food-related example, increased service consumption might involve choosing goods of higher quality – food that is more refined or that involves artisanal skills.
When it comes down to it, there is no clear-cut distinction between pure consumption of services and consumption of goods. Consumption of a service may require travel and then goods in the form of fuel have to be purchased. On the other hand, a high-quality item may in practice have had more service input than material input. It might seem complicated, but it does expand the horizons of those who want to make a lifestyle change. There is scope not only to consume pure services, but also to choose goods that have a major service element to them!