What will consumption and production look like in 2030?

Cities are driving change, we’re eating less meat, and businesses have become ‘Lifestyle Support Services’. Ian Christie and Professor Richard Murphy explore an imagined future in which Global Goal 12 (Responsible consumption and production) is being realised.

Professor Richard Murphy and Ian Christie

Professor Richard Murphy & Ian Christie

Professor Richard Murphy is Director of the Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES) at the University of Surrey. Ian Christie is a Fellow of CES.

They write in a personal capacity.

Dear 2030,

The view from 2015 sometimes looks bleak. Our treatment of Earth’s resources and ecosystems is still unsustainable. But we’ve seen enough signs of positive change to be confident that by 2030 we can be on course for a world of responsible consumption and production. 2015-2020 saw the crisis of unsustainable development hit home to so many people in almost every sector. And they could see enormous benefits from sustainable production and consumption. All this mobilised new knowledge, innovation and investments to implement bold changes of direction...

In 2015, we waste around one-third of all food. We have carbon-intensive production of consumer goods that don’t last. So what’s changed in 2030? You’ve drastically cut down food waste and optimised diets. You’re cutting carbon from production and consumption – just about enough to avoid dangerous climate change. You’re conserving soil and water and using renewable energy on a huge scale. You’re on course to the ‘circular economy’, recirculating as many materials as possible between producers and consumers. 

In 2030, businesses act as ‘Lifestyle Support Services’, helping citizens live more sustainably. They’re not selling us as much ‘stuff’ as they did in 2015 – but they are running successful businesses helping the great majority of us live ‘better’. They’re taking back goods for repair, remanufacture and reuse, and providing innovative ways to living ‘lightly’.

How has it happened? Business coalitions – above all in the food industries, facing big risks from climate change – have transformed supply chains, and demanded radical action from governments to decarbonise. In 2030, production is based on ‘Industrial Ecology’ – turning all ‘waste’ into useful inputs and avoiding or minimising harmful impacts throughout product life cycles.

You’ve intensified food production – reducing the amount of land needed – and can feed the growing population. You’ve created no-fishing zones to help endangered species recover. You eat much less meat and fish, and diets worldwide are better for both people and the planet.

Cities have been crucial. Mayors worldwide have been leaders for sustainability, and citizens have responded to new investments and incentives.

In 2030 your cities are laboratories for responsible production and consumption. At the grassroots, the urban ‘sharing economy’ has taken off worldwide, changing the way we think about consumption. We’ve also seen a big shift from healthcare providers – cutting waste and use of drugs, and focusing on public health and well-being. There’s a long way still to go. 

But 2030 is a greener, more responsible and hopeful time than many of us felt in 2015. Now it’s up to you – to make the rest of the century a time that humanity can be proud of, a time when we made responsible production and consumption the norm, sustaining the Good Earth for everyone.

Yours optimistically, Ian Christie and Richard Murphy

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