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#COP28: Time for a new climate narrative


As everyone tunes into COP28, it's not just another climate summit—it's our moment to shift the conversation and focus on issues that are usually left in the shadows. While we talk a lot about decarbonisation and green economies, there's a key part we’re missing from the puzzle: our consumption habits.

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Assia Oulkadi

Let’s face it: we’ve been a bit too fixated on decarbonisation, thinking it's the answer to the ecological crisis. But here's the catch: while one country boasts about lowering greenhouse gas emissions, they might have simply shifted them elsewhere, leaving the Earth with the same carbon burden.

In most climate talks we’re missing a crucial point: our constant need to produce and consume. So, as we gear up for the second week of COP28, it's about time we focus the conversation on what truly matters: how much we consume and the urgent need for dematerialisation. In this blog post, we're diving deep into the environmental and ethical implications of overconsumption and exploring potential solutions.

the decarbonisation illusion

Let's be real, focusing on cutting carbon and transitioning to a greener economy is just a single aspect of the climate crisis and it has some serious downsides for both people and the planet. This “carbon tunnel vision”, poses a number of significant problems in achieving environmental sustainability. Because of this, we might miss out on other big environmental issues , such as biodiversity loss, resource depletion, and water scarcity, all connected to the climate crisis. This narrow perspective oversimplifies the complex challenges of sustainability, leading to incomplete or shortsighted solutions. We need to see the bigger picture for better and smarter solutions 🌍

travelling carbon

Cutting carbon might look good from the outside, but oftentimes it’s just moving emissions from one place to another. A country might be achieving its objective of emitting less, but all they do is offshore their production to countries with looser rules, so on a global scale nothing changes. If we count the emissions hidden in the goods we import, the EU’s emission reductions would be much lower. In 2020, the EU-27 imported emissions of 1.32 tonnes per person.

And that's not the only issue – the focus on cutting emissions makes us overlook the bigger environmental and ethical picture.

it’s about time we use less

Our climate conversation needs a fresh perspective. Our unsustainable consumption habits lie at the heart of our climate crisis: the extraction and processing of materials, fuels and food make up about half of total climate emissions and are responsible for more than 90% of biodiversity loss and lack of clean water. The EU's material footprint, including fossil fuels, biomass, metals, and minerals, surpasses double a sustainable level.

It’s time to address our consumption habits by adopting a framework for fair use of resources. After all, it's not just about being just towards our planet, but also about being fair to everybody. Currently, the 1.2 billion poorest people use only 1% of the world’s resources, while the billion richest consume 72%. So, here's the real talk: Do we really need more stuff to thrive, or do we need better, more sustainable choices?

We have to move towards dematerialisation - that means making things with fewer materials and using less energy. It’s not just a fancy term; it's a lifeline for a planet drowning in trash and the only way to tackle our triple crisis.

shifting the conversation at COP28

For COP28 to make a difference, it must be a game-changer, highlighting the importance of sustainable consumption and dematerialisation.

Political discussions and agreements shouldn’t be limited to decarbonisation and should be targeting systemic change around cutting emissions and promoting real sustainable choices.

COP meetings should be a convening place to make a big impact by getting serious about solutions like dematerialisation. It can help the EU to reduce its energy demands and ensure greater respect of human rights in EU value chains. COP28 must look beyond the quick wins and short-term carbon reductions. That’s why we call the countries who are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to name unsustainable consumption levels as the root cause of the climate crisis and commit to paving the way to establish binding material footprint reduction targets to reduce consumption levels in the Global North. It's about a future where sustainability isn't a buzzword but a way of life. It's about reimagining our lifestyles, our consumption patterns, and our relationship with the environment in a positive way while safeguarding the wellbeing of their citizens that is no longer associated with material wealth in affluent societies.

Are you at COP28?

Join us at the side events organised by the European Youth Forum and the European Economic and Social Committee ⬇️

Beyond Growth: Sufficiency for a sustainable and equitable future

When: 9th of December at 1:15pm

Where: SE Room 7, UNFCCC Pavilion, Dubai


Organised by Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) ⬇️

The Role of Academies in Climate Policy Advice

When: 9th of December, at 3pm

Where: SE Room 6, UNFCCC Pavilion, Dubai.

The European Youth Forum is the biggest platform of youth organisations in Europe, representing over 100 youth organisations, which bring together tens of millions of young people from all over Europe.

The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) is a sustainability think tank with offices in Brussels and London. Working with stakeholders across EU institutions, international bodies, academia, civil society and industry, the team of economists, scientists and lawyers produce evidence-based research and policy insight.

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