It’s not all doom and gloom

Leaders and activists worldwide are concerned about saving environment from the hazards of industrial and human activities. People living in cities have a major responsibility as cities have larger carbon foot print than rural areas. We must think over to bring essential changes in our habits and consumption patterns to contribute our bit to sustainability and help national governments in achieving targets set under SDGs and drive urban development keeping New Urban Agenda in mind


Sustainable consumption and production has been at the centre of discussion in promoting development in the right trajectory. The concept of sustainable consumption is not new. Indian ethoses have always promoted sustainable consumption. Cultural and religious believes in India have supported the concept in many ways. Underlining the fact, in the recent climate conference COP22 in Marrakech, India has cited Mahatma Gandhi’s ideal and underlined the significance of “sustainable consumption and production patterns” for healthy urban future, saving environment and preserving fast depleting natural resources.

All nations have shown keen interest in partnering with other countries and making contribution to reduce the impacts of climate change on environment but the biggest challenge in front of developing nations is to maintaining economic growth while implementing climate change action plans. Developed nations must support the developing countries like India and many others by sharing technology and extending financial support to build a green growth model which not just enable a suitable environment for economic prosperity but also takes care of climate change concerns.

Sustainable living

The recently released documentary film released by celebrated Hollywood actor and climate crusader Leonardo DiCaprio raises many issues related to climate change and environmental degradation across the globe. In the film, he had interacted with many renowned political leaders and celebrities including US President Barrack Obama, Pope Francis, India-based environmentalist Sunita Narain, Kiribati President Anote Tong, United States Secretary of State John Kerry, Canadian entrepreneur Elon Musk, Mexican film director Alejandro Inarritu, astronaut Piers Sellers and sustainability expert Johan Rockström.

DiCaprio’s interaction with Indian environmentalist focuses on overconsumption pattern of citizens of the USA while poor countries are told to embrace renewable energy. She insists: “Your consumption is going to really put a hole in the planet. We need to put the issue of lifestyle and consumption at the center of climate negotiations.” In the documentary, Narain is left shaking her head as DiCaprio argues ruefully that Americans will probably never accept a change to their “standard of living”, a concept that is unavoidably linked to consumption.

It is expected of developing nations to set an example by bringing change in the consumption patterns and adoption of sustainable lifestyle among their citizens. Experts have suggested that sustainable consumption doesn’t mean a lower standard of living, just a higher level of intentionality about encouraging more sustainable products, systems and services. There have been a couple of initiatives by multi- national companies to promote sustainable products among people. They are also educating consumers and changing behavior with an eye towards bigger impacts. These companies are reducing emissions, improving efficiency, saving water and eliminating packaging material and waste.

According to findings and predictions from the research agencies, global population would reach 9.6 billion by 2050. And, the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles. For example, if people worldwide switched to energy efficient light bulbs the world would save US$120 billion annually. If we turn our focus on existing water resources, the data suggests that less than 3 per cent of the world’s water is fresh (drinkable), of which 2.5 per cent is frozen in the Antarctica, Arctic and glaciers. Humanity must therefore rely on 0.5 per cent for all of man’s ecosystems and fresh water needs. This is worrying because humans are polluting water faster than nature can recycle and purify water in rivers and lakes.

Global initiatives

The Rio Earth Summit (1992) identified for the first time ‘unsustainable patterns of consumption and production’ as the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment. The Johannesburg Summit (2002) called for the development of a global framework in support of national and regional initiatives to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production. The 10- Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP), developed through consultative process, was adopted at the Rio+20 Summit (2012). The five initial programmes under 10YFP include—consumer information; sustainable lifestyles and education; sustainable public procurement; sustainable buildings and construction; and sustainable tourism, including ecotourism.

‘Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns’ was adopted as one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Eleven targets under this goal include, implementation of the 10YFP, sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources; reducing the global food waste at production by half, improving supply chains and consumption levels; substantial reduction of waste through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse; sustainable public procurement practices; environmentally sound management of chemicals and other waste, rationalization of fossil fuel subsidies, etc. The Paris Climate Agreement (2016) recognized that sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production will play an important role in addressing climate change and that developed countries have to take the lead in this direction.

The recently held Habitat III also underlined the significance and one of the declarations said: “We recognize that cities and human settlements face unprecedented threats from unsustainable consumption and production patterns, loss of biodiversity, pressure on ecosystems, pollution, natural and human-made disasters, and climate change and its related risks, undermining the efforts to end poverty in all its forms and dimensions and to achieve sustainable development.”

Habitat III, the conference that is held once in every 20 years, gathers governments, urban stakeholders, local authorities, civil societies, the private sector and academic institutions, and has as an objective: a discussion on the challenges of urbanization on a global scale, while trying to offer solutions and ways to implement the SDG.  One of the declarations adopted in the Summit read: “We recognize that cities and human settlements face unprecedented threats from unsustainable consumption and production patterns, loss of biodiversity, pressure on ecosystems, pollution, natural and human-made disasters, and climate change and its related risks, undermining the efforts to end poverty in all its forms and dimensions and to achieve sustainable development. Given cities’ demographic trends and their central role in the global economy, in the mitigation and adaptation efforts related to climate change, and in the use of resources and ecosystems, the way they are planned, financed, developed, built, governed and managed has a direct impact on sustainability and resilience well beyond urban boundaries.”

This underlines the importance of cities in promoting sustainable consumption and production. Since more and more people are moving to cities and the findings by international agencies tell that the consumption of natural resources and energy is high in urban areas, it becomes the responsibility of city leaders to encourage urban dweller to adopt sustainable life style and use natural resources optimally and play their role in building sustainable future.

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