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Changing your behaviour can help reduce climate emissions

A new report put together by the EU Commission highlights the potential of behavioural change for tackling climate change. A healthier diet and replacing fossil fuel cars with more sustainable modes of transport can make significant contributions to reducing emissions.

Behavioural change is a relatively neglected area in climate change mitigation but has a huge potential for reducing carbon emissions, according to a new EU report Behavioural Climate Change Mitigation Options.

The authors focus on emissions from household heating, transport and food, and identified 36 options for behavioural change that can lead to emission reductions within these areas.

Focusing on food, a shift to a vegetarian diet was found to have the highest potential by 2020. But also a change to a healthier diet with fewer calories and more fruit and vegetables has almost as high a potential. Food production for citizens’ consumption accounts for a considerable amount of greenhouse gas emissions, half of which can be attributed to meat production.

To persuade Europeans to decrease their energy intake and at the same time eat more fruit and greens, a multiple approach is suggested with consumption taxes on unhealthy food, improved food labelling and school initiatives.

HEAL will raise this overlooked aspect with decision-makers in the next months, as the EU debates its future climate and air quality policy. Behavioural changes can never replace ambitious policies for necessary sectoral GHG reductions. However, the EU and member states should better consider the reduction potential of behavioural change and how certain policies promote or hinder climate and health-friendly behaviour (e.g. investment in public transportation, walking and cycling versus company car schemes).

For further information and to read the report Behavioural Climate Change Mitigation Options and Their Appropriate Inclusion in Quantitative Longer Term Policy Scenarios, CE Delft, 2012, click here

Originally posted on 10 May 2013

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