Knowledge for better food systems

JRF report: Sustainable income standards: Towards a greener minimum?

This report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation asks whether changes towards ‘greener’ forms of consumption are compatible with preserving a minimum acceptable standard of living. 

Previous analysis of the Minimum Income Standard for the UK (MIS) has shown that if everyone were to live at this minimum, carbon emissions would be around 37 per cent lower than at present. This is a long way off targets to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

The research, which focuses on household energy, food and travel, draws on:

  • consultation with experts and desk-based research to identify consumption changes that offered the greatest potential for reducing the environmental impact of the MIS; and
  • focus groups with members of the public to explore the acceptability of these changes in terms of maintaining a socially acceptable minimum living standard.

Key points:

  • The main sources of greenhouse gas emissions from households come from home energy, food and transport.
  • Savings on home energy, through adjusting behaviour, could potentially reduce domestic fuel consumption by 25 per cent, saving about £250 a year on an average fuel bill. In many cases, the public accepted such adjustments as being compatible with a minimum living standard.
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of food consumption was more complex. The most obvious way was cutting down on meat. This was resisted by the research participants, who felt people should continue to have the choice of the relatively modest levels of meat consumption specified in the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) diet.
  • The public was reluctant to adopt more sustainable modes of transport as an acceptable norm without improvements in safety, convenience and cost.
  • People were more likely to regard greener ways of living as socially acceptable where price differences caused them to see non-green consumption as a ‘luxury’. They were reluctant to accept measures that restricted choices, caused time inconvenience, or compromised safety.

You can download the full report below and the summary here.

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