Individual behaviours, unfriendly to the environment, have become a real obstacle for tackling the climate change, experts said on Monday at the China Energy and Environment Summit in Beijing.
“Compared with developing clean energy, it will be more difficult to change people’s consumption perception and behaviour,” said Li Junfeng, Deputy Director of the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission.
Li said that in recent years, like American customers, China’s newly affluent have come to prefer buying oil-guzzling vehicles, bigger apartments and higher-power air conditioners, which would “lead to terrible consequences.” Li’s warning echoed a report issued by the World Bank in September. Titled Climate Change and Individual Behaviour, the report said that climate change is anthropogenic - the product of billions of acts of daily consumption.
However, most suggested solutions to climate change have focused on the realm of finance and technology, while neglecting a crucial factor: individual behaviour.
Bernice Lee, Research Director of Energy, Environment and Resource Governance under Royal Institute of International Affairs, said even though it is important to ensure sustainable consumption, lifestyle change could be difficult to redirect in the short term. “We need technologies, price incentives, regulations, standards, and investment in the right infrastructure to shape behavioural change. You can’t assume that people would change their behaviours just because you told them to,” Lee said.
Individual behaviours are closely related to the development level of the city people live in, said Daniel Rosen, principal of Rhodium Group and visiting fellow of Peterson Institute for International Economics. Inhabitants of a city boasting convenient public transport often prefer taking bus to driving car, he said.
The summit, themed “clean energy - men’s future, mutual responsibility”, was organized by the China Chamber of International Commerce and the Financial Times. The summit is scheduled to close on Tuesday.