Consumption & Sustainability

Fostering consumption and production patterns that promote fairness and conserve natural resources is a central objective of sustainable development. Forging pathways towards greater sustainability is a complex and challenging task. Science Platform Sustainability 2030 contributes towards efforts to achieve this objective within the scope of the German Sustainable Development Strategy.

Consumption, sustainability, and the role of science

Numerous approaches have been developed to promote sustainable consumption at various levels but these efforts have so far failed to bring about fundamental change. One notable example are the gains in energy efficiency achieved in Germany, which have yet to deliver substantial sustainability effects:

While energy efficiency has increased significantly in Germany since 2000, household energy consumption and carbon emissions have remained static. This outcome is the result of what are known as “rebound effects”, which translate efficiency gains into more consumption or economic growth.

Other possible approaches such as the downscaling of consumption and production clash with existing market structures and have not gained significant ground in policymaking to date.

Locating effective levers to foster sustainable consumption has proved difficult given the diverse dimensions that policies must address in order to transform consumption and production practices at the individual, local, national, and global levels. Creating change also requires that policymakers are cognisant of the many intertwining ecological, economic and social issues at work in this field.

Working Group

Tackling the challenge of sustainable consumption

The central goal of the working group on sustainable consumption is to enrich current research efforts with new perspectives and findings that are particularly relevant to the implementation and further development of the German Strategy for Sustainable Development. The group’s work focuses on three specific fields:

Digitalisation: Digitalisation is rapidly coming to dominate production and consumption practices; however, this trend is hardly addressed in the German Strategy for Sustainable Development. What opportunities and risks does the digital transition present for sustainable consumption?

Socio-economics: Consumption patterns vary greatly among socio-economic groups, yet political strategies have not substantially accounted for this to date. How can various groups be effectively addressed in order to foster sustainable development?

Transformation: The complex challenges of sustainable consumption require profound change at the systemic, structural and individual levels – political strategies often do not go far enough here. Which transformation strategies are necessary and promising for the advancement of fundamental transformation?

The findings of the working group will be summarised in a report containing research-based and actionable policy options to support the implementation of the German Strategy for Sustainable Development as well as recommendations to the scientific community for future research.

Processes and dialogues to promote sustainable consumption

The findings of the Science Platform contribute directly to various political processes. A number of processes are particularly relevant with respect to sustainable consumption; these include the National Programme for Sustainable Consumption (NPNK) in Germany and the 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP) established by the United Nations in 2012.

Who can participate and how?

The Science Platform is open to interested parties from science and society wishing to contribute to our work or participate in our forums for dialogue and exchange.

 

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