India is one of the few countries with an average per capita ecological footprint that is still suitable for “one-planet living” which means it is supporting a sustainable lifestyle. But India is on the move. In future – coal induced – the energy-related CO2-emissions will nearly triple, electricity use has increased the last decades. Though the Indian government has already reduced its coal-fired power generating ambitions in favor of renewables at prices which will almost halve the cost of coal generation by 2020, India is the world’s second-largest market for solar power and the solar products market is growing.
Changes are hard, are they?
India has a specific role in the Sustainable Lifestyles Accelerator-Project: Lifestyle studies in the more advanced economies have shown that household behavioural change is complicated to put into action. There is a resistance to lifestyle change. Moreover, the effect on the environment of such behavioural change is significant in the limited fields only of building, mobility and food. But in India, lifestyles are already in a process of major change with households standing at the center of an enhanced developmental aspiration to consume. Indian households can therefore become an important research and testing ground for sustainability.
Making the change sustainable
A key driver of energy trends, an additional 315 million people – almost the population of the United States today – are expected to live in India’s city households by 2040. Since most of the 2040 building stock has yet to be constructed, the Sustainable Lifestyles Accelerator has a great research opportunity in catching people in a receptive phase of their consumption habits which are expanding and in acceleration mode around housing, food, mobility, energy and lifestyle products and services. The yet-to-be invested in consumer choices in India offer a potential advantage for catalysing lifestyle change. Since most energy-intensive purchasing decisions are yet to be made, there is occasion to still shape resource-consuming preferences and practices. Once invested in, these consumption patterns will be difficult to reverse.