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Latest IPCC Report highlights need for more talk about consumers

05 April 2022

Yesterday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the third part of its sixth comprehensive assessment of climate science, warning that the world is not shifting quickly enough to a low-carbon economy.  

The report acknowledges the powerful role consumers can play in mitigating climate change. This is welcome; for the first time, the IPCC have assessed the potential of "demand-side strategies" which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40-70% by 2050. In practice, this translates to consumers everywhere making changes to how they travel, how they heat, cool and power their homes, the food they eat, and the products they buy.

However, consumers will only be able to make these changes if supported by structural shifts and ambitious political action. This must also be done fairly, or it has the potential to disrupt social cohesion and lead to the rejection of mitigation approaches. 

The involvement of consumer organisations in decision-making, alongside other relevant actors, will be key to help to build consumer trust and strengthen support for the transformational changes we need to make.

Our Call to Action released last year at COP26 clearly emphasised how such trust can be built. This focussed on obtaining government commitment to create an enabling environment for rapid consumer behaviour change, a ‘consumer fairness test’ for climate policies, and the expansion and deepening of consumer representation and participation in decision-making. 

In 1999 and 2015 Consumers International was successful in campaigning to update the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection to progressively incorporate sustainability.  We stand ready to build on this and other achievements, working with all relevant parties to realise the solutions put forward in the IPCC report. Together, we can deliver the urgent action needed to enable a just and green transition.