2023 IEKTopics|Moving towards a Low-Carbon Lifestyle

1. What is Low-carbon lifestyle?

Our past lifestyles have not been low carbon. What is a desirable low-carbon lifestyle to achieve a decarbonized society?

First, it is important to aim for a lifestyle that reduces CO2 emissions associated with energy consumption in daily life. Specifically, it is necessary to reduce energy consumption from fossil fuels and shift to a lifestyle that uses electricity produced from renewable energy sources. In addition, Japan has an extremely low energy self-sufficiency rate and is dependent on large imports of fossil fuels from overseas. Under such socioeconomic conditions, it is not easy to introduce large amounts of renewable energy in a short period. Therefore, reducing wasteful energy consumption is also an important measure toward a low-carbon lifestyle.

Furthermore, people's purchasing behavior affects indirect CO2 emissions. Depending on which goods and services are purchased, CO2 emissions during manufacturing and transportation will change. If the decarbonization perspective is taken into account when people purchase goods and services, it will lead to CO2 emission reductions in the industrial, commercial, and transportation sectors.

It will also be important to invest in companies that are committed to decarbonization. Low-carbon lifestyles in the broadest sense include behavior change that leads to indirect CO2 emission reductions through such purchasing and investment behavior.


2. Efforts toward the realization of low-carbon lifestyle and their impact on industry

What is needed to achieve a low-carbon lifestyle is (a) the promotion of energy conservation, (b) the elimination of fossil fuel use, and (c) a switch to electricity use from decarbonized sources. Since the characteristics of energy consumption vary greatly from country to country and region to region, this paper will discuss the Japanese case. Considering from the perspective of energy consumption within homes, with regard to (a), in addition to the spread of highly insulated homes, it is necessary to appropriately replace home appliances with high-efficiency ones. It is also necessary to thoroughly reduce wasteful energy consumption by reviewing the way appliances are used. For (b), it is necessary to switch to air conditioners for heating, heat pump water heaters, and IH cooking heaters; for (c), it is desirable to install PVs in homes, but if this is difficult, it is also effective to review contracts (e.g., changing power companies and contract plans) to enable the use of more low-carbon electricity.

In reality, the degree of freedom of measures that can be taken by households varies depending on the type of house and ownership status. In the case of detached owner-occupied houses, residents are basically free to take all measures at their will. However, in the case of apartment buildings and rental housing, it is difficult for individuals to make drastic insulation improvements or install PVs after they have taken up residence. Furthermore, spatial constraints often make it difficult to install heat pump water heaters. Therefore, choosing a house with excellent insulation will help realize a low-carbon lifestyle.

It is necessary to have a mechanism that allows people to choose low-carbon lifestyle according to the housing situation. For example, in the case of detached houses, housing manufacturers need to supply highly insulated housed and encourage PV installation. In the case of housing complexes, it is desirable to accelerate the trend for developers and owners to build or renovate highly insulated housing and make its superior insulation performance as a selling point. Manufacturers of equipment and facilities should develop products that can be installed in any type of housing. Electric utility companies are required to show CO2 emissions from power generation in an easy-to-understand manner, so that consumers can choose electricity with low CO2 emissions during power generation.

The choice of mode of transportation is also important. When public transportation is available or the distance to be traveled is short, it is preferable to use public transportation, bicycles, or walking instead of driving. Even when a car is necessary for daily life, fuel-efficient electric vehicles should be chosen. And the key is community development. Mobility is determined in large part by urban development. It is important to stop unplanned urban development and to create a town that enables lower-carbon mobility.

To broaden the perspective further, industries need to conduct production activities in a more resource- and energy-efficient manner than ever before. It is also necessary to provide information to consumers so that they can easily determine the environmental impact of their production. Furthermore, from now on, companies themselves need to actively promote how their production activities are working toward the realization of a decarbonized society. Otherwise, they will not be able to receive investments.

Despite the need to introduce measures at a faster pace than ever before to realize a decarbonized society, the pace is not increasing. If we wait for consumers to change their own behavior, it will not be possible to achieve a decarbonized society. In Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has pioneered in requiring the installation of PVs in new houses and in setting regulations that only allow the sale of electric vehicles after 2030. It is important to create a mechanism that allows all people to naturally choose a low-carbon lifestyle.


3. To promote "Low-Carbon Lifestyle" globally

Lifestyle varies greatly depending on region, religion, customs, etc. For example, wealth is not homogeneous when compared among developed countries. Comparing Japan and the U.S., energy consumption per household is much higher in the U.S. than in Japan. This difference is not only due to differences in climate and economic affluence, but also to differences in lifestyle and values resulting from differences in culture, history, community development, and customs. These differences cannot be changed in a short time, nor do I believe that the world should strive for a completely homogeneous lifestyle and values. However, in order to realize low-carbon lifestyles around the world, developing countries should consider what kind of development and lifestyles they should aim for from the perspective of decarbonization. And in the developed countries, while respecting their own history, culture, and customs, we believe that they need to reconsider what kind of affluence they should aim for, and rebuild the affluent lifestyles that are necessary in the era of decarbonization.

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