Climate Change

An aspirational lifestyle for 7 billion people?

Sue Riddlestone
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There is an unconscious and slightly patronising attitude out there in the world about doing our bit to help poor people with some aid, which does not seem to see the link to the casually well off lives that many of us lead. I sensed it as an eminent line up of world political and business leaders discussed what will follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the World Economic Forum at Davos on Thursday evening.

It was up to Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the UN to remind the panel that the world committed to develop a set of universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at Rio+20 in June 2012, to follow on from the MDGs.

Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever, fretted about growing human population and scarce resources and said we need equitable growth within planetary boundaries. At a climate change session at lunchtime Lord Stern reminded us that our goal is two tonnes of CO2 per person by 2050, it’s currently about 12 tonnes in the EU.

So our big Sustainable Development Goal from 2015 could be a good life, even an aspirational life, for 7 billion people within a fair and sustainable share of the world’s resources. This means people from rich countries like me become more resource efficient and get their ecological footprint down from three planets to one and as part of that, my carbon footprint down to 2 tonnes. Everything we need that is food, shelter, healthcare, education etc. comes from that budget.

At our organisation BioRegional, this is what we have been trying to do. I live in a sustainable community  which we co-created and have managed to get half way there, but need the rest of London’s infrastructure to be as efficient to get down to what we call one planet living. So we modelled it for London in 2009 and found that it is possible even given current technology. Far from suffering, people report being happier and healthier in sustainable communities

If this works in London then it could also work in countries like Bangladesh or Haiti where people don’t have enough and need to grow.

There are 7 billion consumers out there. But income inequality, highlighted as a top global risk of 2013  by the World Economic Forum, is depressing demand. Shifting both income and resource use from rich to poor by just a few percent could, combined with resource efficiency for rich nations, kick-start the delivery of a goal we can all understand and be proud of – a good life for everyone and for future generations.


Author: Sue Riddlestone, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, BioRegional Development Group, United Kingdom; Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Europe, 2011

BioRegional Development Group designs and delivers real life sustainable communities and businesses, including the award-winning BedZED eco-village in London, where BioRegional has its main base. The BedZED village also houses seven BioRegional companies, such green property developer BioRegional Quintain, a kerbside recycling company for SMEs, and a clean tech company for the paper industry. BioRegional has sister organisations or representative offices in North America, China, Greece, Mexico and South Africa.

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Climate ChangeFuture of the Environment
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