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Energy transition, resource transition and nutrition transition go hand in hand

For about 30 years Friedrich “Bio” Schmidt-Bleek has been calling for a reduction of the resource consumption that has been a feature of our industrial economy by a factor of 10, i.e. by 90% to one tenth.

In addition to specific energy policy measures, meeting the 1.5 degree target also requires an increase in resource efficiency. Our results in meetPASS point in this direction once again: without “dematerialisation” – reduction of resource consumption – climate policy will not succeed.

In the meetPASS scenario it was assumed that resource productivity in 50 important technology areas will increase by 1% per year with an amortisation period of 5 years for the required investments. “With regard to metal ores in the COP21 scenario it is assumed, that up to 2050 half of the primary metal ore inputs in basic metal production will be substituted by secondary metal ores.” In addition, an “upstream tax on metal ores and non-metallic minerals” was assumed, which will rise to 25% by 2050. A genuine circular economy (= dematerialisation) on the one hand and climate protection on the other belong inseparably together.

Finally, it was assumed that a profound and detailed information programme for fostering resource efficiency would be established:

  • The efficiency improvements cover only a narrow selection of 50 technologies.
  • The achievable improvements in resource efficiency with regard to the selected technology are rather low (+ 1% p.a.).
  • The assumed costs, that are necessary to harvest the efficiency gains, are rather high (2 times the achieved savings of one year for research & development expenditures, 1 times the achieved savings of one year for consultancy expenditures and 2.5 times the savings of one year for capital expenditures).

The modelling of the meetPASS scenario with the GINFORS model indicates that there is a direct physical relationship between the quantity of raw materials used in industrial processes and CO2 emissions. The transition to a circular economy (= dematerialisation) and climate protection are thus inseparable. The meetPASS measures would, on the one hand, reduce cumulated resource extraction from 3,000 to 2,000 Gt compared to the BAU, and on the other, halve the stock of CO2 emissions accumulated by 2050 (700 Gt instead of 1300 Gt).

With regard to dietary habits two assumptions have been made: The first one concerns food waste. In this regard it is assumed that within the next three decades on each stage (biomass inputs in food production, food & beverage inputs in restaurant services, final consumption expenditures for food & beverages) a reduction of 10% in mass inputs will be achieved without losses in qualitative output.

The second assumption concerns the per capita meat demand. In this regard the meetPASS scenario assumes a growth rate that is by 2-3 percentage points lower than in the BAU scenario. This assumption leads to considerable reductions in per capita meat demand (in kg per year) not only in developed countries.

In addition, transformative elements from civil society like a shift towards less materialistic life styles are added to the meetPASS scenario.

In this regard it is assumed, that more and more people reduce their working hours and therefore have to reduce their consumption expenditures, as they value the gains in leisure time higher than the losses in (materialistic) consumption. This assumption is applied for industrialized countries only. Concerning the magnitude/speed of this transformative element it is assumed, that until 2050 on average the working time per employee will be reduced by 20% (compared to the COP21 scenario without this transformative element).

The good news – as already communicated – is that such a reduction is possible without economic collapse. The economy would grow globally by 75% instead of 85% in the BAU Scenario and the GDP growth rate would remain positive over the entire simulation period.
Europe can also expect a positive impact on its economy, but less intense owing to the assumed changes in lifestyles and consumption patterns. Initially, there would be stronger growth via increased investments, in order to achieve the 1.5°C target. However, the economic stimulus slows later (amounting to overall 23% instead of 31% in the BAU Scenario). Nevertheless, employment would actually be higher in the meetPASS Scenario than in the BAU, thanks partly to a reduction of working hours (by 20% over the period in EU and industrialised countries).

Presentation on the results (PDF)

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