Half-day research seminar on sufficiency and inequality, January 26, 2024 @Uni Freiburg & online

Half-day research seminar on sufficiency and inequality

The topics of sufficiency (reduction in consumption) and social inequality are slowly but surely gaining more attention in current transformation research. Studies clearly show that reducing the overall consumption of energy and materials can make it much easier to achieve climate targets. There is also a growing focus on the fact that consumption is very unevenly distributed within and between societies. People in high income brackets, for example, consume an above-average proportion of total consumption, while consumption in lower income brackets is already at a very low level in some cases. In order to achieve a sustainable supply at a sufficient level for all, it is therefore essential to consider these two aspects, sufficiency and inequality. Scientific questions in this regard include What theoretical/practical potential do sufficiency measures have?; What could sufficiency lifestyles look like?; Scalability of measures/examples?; What system dependencies are there (infrastructure, socio-economic contexts,…)?; How can sufficiency measures be realized?; What minimum consumption level is necessary to lead a good life?; How big can/may/must consumption inequality be?; and many more.

On January 26, 2024, around 45 researchers, practitioners and interested individuals (off- and online) gathered at University of Freiburg to discuss these questions. Following inputs were provided:

Johannes Thema (BMBF Junior Research Group Energy Sufficiency, Europa-Universität Flensburg / Wuppertal Institute): Overview of the work of the BMBF Junior Research Group Energy Sufficiency  – with a focus on buildings

  • Work streams of the research group:
    • Sufficiency scenarios, e.g., sufficiency scenarios quantification by scenario explorer (forthcoming)
    • Conceptual work, e.g., sufficiency conceptions; co-benefits of sufficiency
    • Policy analysis, e.g., EU sufficiency policy database (https://energysufficiency.de/policy-database/); sufficiency potential database (forthcoming)
    • Transport sector (see, e.g., contribution by Marlin Arnz)
    • Buildings:
      • e.g., quantitative modelling of building sector (Cordroch et al. 2021: „Why renewables and energy efficiency are not enough – the relevance of sufficiency in the heating sector for limiting global warming to 1.5 °C “ (doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2021.121313)
      • INHABIT model (forthcoming): Building occupation simulation, incl. socio-economic indicators
  • Results from ongoing research of German building sector
    • Energy efficiency gains in residential building sector canceled out by growth in per capita living space in Germany
      • Per capita living area trends highly diverging for rural/urban / areas of population growth/shrinkage
      • Occupation standards (max number of rooms depending on household size) could reduce per capita floor area
  • More information and selected publications: energysufficiency.de/en/publications/

Marlin Arnz (Reiner Lemoine Institut, Technische Universität Berlin): The Potential of Sufficiency in Passenger Transport

  • Development of transport sector sufficiency scenarios
    • Expert workshops
    • Storylines + parameter quantification
      • Avoid scenario: High availability of goods, services, amenities, and social activities in local environment; digitisation in work relations and distant social contacts
      • Shift scenario: Minimum car dependency; efficient, attractive, interconnected public transport; safe and comfortable cycling infrastructure; increased public health
      • Avoid+Shift: additionally new core principles of integrated transport and spatial planning; private cars as anti-status symbol
  • Transport sector demand simulation model for Germany: quetzal_Germany (zenodo.org/records/7679884)
  • Results:
    • Significant energy saving potentials in transport sector through sufficiency measures
    • Sufficiency scenario increases trips for non-car owners (reduction of “mobility poverty”)
    • Infrastructure cost increases (public expenditure), while private costs are reduced
    • Precondition: local service provision also in rural areas
  • Related paper: Arnz et al. 2024: “Avoid, Shift or Improve passenger transport? Impacts on the energy system” doi.org/10.1016/j.esr.2024.101302
  • Upcoming work on what is and how to quantify decent mobility / how to achieve it?

Elisabeth Dütschke (Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI): Decarbonisation through sufficiency by lifestyle changes – insights from a European project

  • “The main objective of FULFILL is to analyse lifestyle changes as part of European decarbonisation pathways that lead to the fulfilment of the Paris Agreement goals by using critically evaluating the concept of sufficiency as a guiding principle”
  • Identification and in-depth analysis of sufficiency-based lifestyles
    • Descriptors of sufficiency lifestyles today
      • Very sufficient – very low emissions across all domains & high-well being
      • Partly sufficient – very low emissions in some behavioural domains & below average overall emissions & high well-being
      • Deprived – Very low emissions in all domains & low in well-being
    • Publications and further details: fulfill-sufficiency.eu/our-research/
  • Upcoming:
    • Longitudinal study of the persistence of sufficiency lifestyles (forthcoming)
      • using experimental approaches to test acceptability of policies (on housing and dietary choices)
      • identifying conditions for communication pathways
    • Upscaling as input to the macro-models
  • EU Horizon project Fulfill: https://fulfill-sufficiency.eu

Stefan Pauliuk (Industrial Ecology research group, Uni Freiburg): Decent living standards, prosperity, and excessive consumption in the Lorenz curve

  • Minimal income, inequality and total consumption are mutally constrained
  • Linking the per capita average to decent living standards and prosperity by the Gini index
  • Question of what is a desirable level of inequality?
  • Pre-print available at dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4576743

Ahmed Tarek al-Ahwal (Junior Research Group “Urban Footprints”, Uni Freiburg): Accountability of urban climate planning: governance modes, and accountability pillars, states, and discourses

  • Accountability as democratic tool (equality of power)
  • Accounting of climate mitigation (equality of consumption)
  • Accounting consumption:
    • Complementing production accounting with consumption accounting from economic data
    • Consumption inequality between cities and between urban / rural
  • Governing consumption (at city level)
  • Accountability analysis
    • Responsibility
    • Transparency
    • Assessment
    • Participation
  • Accountability discourses and practices
  • Publication forthcoming. Further details: www.enrlaw.uni-freiburg.de/en

Sibylle Braungardt/Tanja Kenkmann (Öko-Institut): Using living space more efficiently: Potentials, obstacles, strategies for the single-family housing stock in Germany

  • Many unused rooms (and even entire apartments) in German single-family houses (SFH) owned by elderly people
    • High costs etc. for house owners & new construction, costs etc. to provide living space for new families
  • Alternatives:
    • densification within SFH (share/divide/…)
    • Moving out and rent out/sell/…
  • Analysis of 21 surveys on living conditions of elderly people
    • Many could imagine to move to smaller dwelling – however, also many obstacles (e.g., costs, social contacts, …), low concrete willingness to move
  • Options to support densification:
    • Municipalities and politics need to enable/provide alternative living concepts
    • Enabling financing of modifications/moving/…
    • Constrain new SFH construction; actively manage use of available construction sites
    • Provision of information/advice/support
  • Selected publications:

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