living sustainably

7. Implement three measures immediately

1. Stop CO2 emissions
Transform the global energy sector - Immediate climate protection

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Global warming and hence climate change are progressing very rapidly. 

Limiting global warming to a level clearly below  2 °C requires a rapid decarbonisation of the global economy. If this project fails, it will have serious consequences for future generations.

It's time to finally listen to the young generation and the science and to act.

The past four years have been the warmest since weather records began, while global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

Climate justice must play a central role in the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Emissions in Europe but also in the USA, in Canada, in Australia and Japan must be reduced faster than in all other countries.

Measures must be implemented in all emitting sectors of our society. In the EU, the percentage share of greenhouse gas emissions are: 

  • 30 % in power sector
  • 27 % in transport sector
  • 19 % in industrial sector
  • 12 % in building sector
  • 12 % in agricultural sector

In addition to the real economy, financial economy also plays a central role as an accompanying framework for transformation. The EU must therefore increasingly take advantage of and focus on the leverage of public investment and private finance.

Source: Position paper for policymakers and decision-makers of the Climate Alliance Germany. Time for an effective European climate policy - making Europe a climate union. June 2019

2. Cut back over-consumption

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We have to rethink our way of life and cut back on over-consumption. 

The wearing out of nature through our consumption-oriented lifestyle is too great and endangers our basis of existence. 

Very often we do not consume what we really need. Four out of five people are spending less on their own needs, but rather on what their friends, relatives, neighbours or work colleagues are buying. 

Three powerful status symbols still determine our consumption behaviour.

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  • Big car 
    A big vehicle has always been considered a powerful status symbol. In the past, it was the pompous coaches of a few, then the Rolls-Royce of some, the American Chevrolet of many, and today the ever-bigger car of almost all people. 

    Since 1980, the average weight of a car has doubled.

  • Large consumption of meat and fish
    Since time immemorial, the consumption of meat has been a powerful status symbol. First, it was the feasting in the palaces of a few (over 200 years ago, in Europe, over 90% of all people generally had no meat to eat), then frequent food in expensive restaurants for the many, and, today, almost all people eat meat daily.

    In addition, we now almost only eat the better pieces of slaughtered animals, the other parts end up as waste.

    For 1 kg of beef about 33 square meters of agricultural land is required, for 1 kg of potatoes, however, only 0.3 square meters.

    Per capita fish consumption has doubled worldwide since 1960.

    Meat Atlas - Facts and figures about the animals we eat.
     Heinrich Böll Foundation Germany and Friends of the Earth Europe Belgium. 2014. 

  • Large living space
    Large living space has always been considered a powerful status symbol. It used to be the pompous castles of a few, then the spacious villas of some, the homes of many, and, today, the large apartments of almost all people.

    The living space per inhabitant in Germany, for example, has almost doubled in less than 50 years from 26 to 46 square meters in the year 2014 [There are similar developments in other countries]. And about one third of the claimed living space is not or hardly used.

    This entails a large increase in energy consumption in heating and a large subsequent consumption, such as the purchase of furniture and many additional home furnishings.

All three status symbols have a big impact on our environment. 

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3. Use clean and efficient technologies

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The impact of our steadily growing consumption and world population growth can only be partially offset by technological solutions.

We now need both: 

  • the rapid implementation of clean technology and 
  • a sustainable way of life in rich countries. 

Only then can we correct the imbalance on our planet.

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Policy is challenged. It must set and enforce the framework conditions for a sustainable development of our society. 

But policy is often barely able to fulfil its responsibilities as it lag far behind the accelerating pace of technological developments such as digitisation and the momentum of the economy led by the increasingly powerful global financial sector.

In addition, many politicians still believe that free competition and the free market are the best tools for the economy and for solving the major problems of our global ecological and social crisis.

The massive lobbying of powerful business representatives with their individual interests in our parliaments still too often prevents measures for sustainable economic activity. Everything then relies on the voluntary actions of the key players and thus much valuable time is lost. 

In addition, environmentally harmful activities linked to our economy should no longer be kept alive with the argument of keeping jobs.

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Our decision

We humans in the rich countries can and must decide: 

  • do we want to continue as before or 
  • do we want to throttle our excessive consumption?

Now is the time for responsible and committed people to voluntarily start to live sustainably. They can show us others how a sustainable life - without sacrificing quality of life - is also possible in modern society.  

However, we can not just wait until we change voluntarily our behaviour overall. This will take too long in view of our threatened human basis of existence.

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Politicians must now set the framework conditions 

  • so that our economic system can abandon the pure growth strategy and prioritise a sustainability strategy and
  • so that living sustainably becomes practical, easy and convenient in everyday life for all of us.

Politicians must take immediate measures, such as: 

  • enact laws that are easy to grasp so that CO2 emissions are quickly reduced to zero by the year 2050
  • stop state subsidies for resource consumption
    Fossil fuels, for example, are being subsidised worldwide at the unimaginable level of 6.5% of global gross domestic product GDP [= total global economic output] 
    Source: International Monetary Fund IMF, Study 2015

    The price of kerosene, for example, is artificially cheapened in many countries with billions in subsidies. Without these and other subsidies, however, hardly any airline in the world - measured on purely economic criteria - would be able to survive.
  • apply the «polluter pays» principle in general
    The «polluter pays» principle is an environmental law principle which states that the costs of measures to protect the environment are to be borne by the polluter. 
    Whoever causes damage to the environment must pay for it.
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