TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION

Sustainable consumption and may assist in diminishing

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sustainable consumption and may assist in diminishing the gap between sustainable and optimal consumption. 4.1 The Sustainable Consumption Project On the basis of this discussion, it can be seen that the development of policies to promote more environmentally sustainable consumption patterns must consider not only a multiplicity of actors, and their respective areas of influence, but also grasp the direction and strength of relationships among the different driving forces. At the current stage, the Sustainable Consumption Project addresses primarily the microeconomic aspects discussed, some aspects of the market failures described to different degrees, and different policy instruments briefly analysed in this paper. By engaging primarily in the analysis of
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ENV/EPOC/WPNEP(2001)12/FINAL 43 qualitative aspects, the project first “deconstructs” environmentally damaging consumption trends into their defining characteristics, and examines both the static conditions and dynamic relationships that account for change, or the lack of it. This analysis must take account not only of the dynamics within households, but also between the household and the wider economic and social context. This “unpacking” leads to a second level of analysis to isolate important areas of potential change, or paralysis, and to identify those actors who could bring the greatest leverage to bear to shift consumption patterns in more sustainable directions. Once the relative roles of the various actors are established the analysis can turn to the particular role of government. Here, the interest is in identifying whether governments have a role to play, and if so, through which particular combination of policies and actions. This analysis should consider government measures with both direct impacts on consumption patterns, and those that have an indirect impact via the behaviour of other actors. It should also consider major barriers to the implementation of government policy. As a practical example of such conceptual framework discussed here, the projects engages on a number of sector case studies (OECD 2001d, OECD 2001f, and OECD 2001g). 4.1.1 Guidance for Research on Household Consumption Patterns The following questions are drawn from the conceptual framework and earlier sectoral work in the Sustainable Consumption programme. They form the basic line of inquiry for the sector case studies, and to ensure a level of comparability between the different sectoral analyses. The final set of questions addressed in each sector case study varies to some degree because each will address a different set of issues (e.g. the case study on food consumption has a trade component). Describing Consumption Trends and their Environmental Significance Each case study should describe current and, where possible, short-term future household consumption trends and should indicate their environmental significance. This discussion should indicate the relative importance for environmental sustainability of consumption at the household level (versus commercial and public sector consumption). This is key to assist in the association between sustainable
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