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Consumers can tackle climate change, say Sustainable Consumption Institute

Consumers can have a major impact on the worlds efforts to reduce global warming, according to new research.

The report is called Consumers, business and climate change and was published by Manchester Universitys Sustainable Consumption Institute.

It estimates that consumers are responsible for 75 per cent of emissions and their action could leverage major reductions in emissions within a few years.

The report also calls for stimulation of consumer demand for low carbon-products and services, using a range of tools such as tax incentives, public procurement decisions and targeted marketing.

Professor Mohan Mungasinghe led the research for the report. He said: Consumption transcends national boundaries; business serve consumers, operate globally and can work quickly.

So the opportunity is there for consumers working with businesses, to lead a green revolution that will help governments achieve more ambitious emissions reduction targets. Our report shows how this can be achieved.

We stress that consumers are fundamental to the solution, although they are often seen as part of the problem.

The report notes how the Coca-Cola Company is advancing an integrated end-to-end approach to packaging that focuses on preventing material, energy and waster losses across the entire life of its packages. It involves optimising packaging material use and advancing post-consumer recovery.

Munasinghe said: Consumption is directly linked to greenhouse gas emissions through fossil fuel power sources, the use of carbon-based materials in manufacturing and large greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Business and Government must empower consumers by removing the many individual barriers they face when trying to make low-carbon choices.

If we consider the countries in which goods and services are consumed, and allocate emissions accordingly, the findings are striking.

For example, nearly 20 per cent of Chinas emissions are produced on behalf of other countries. Conversely, emissions from the US would be 8 per cent higher when counted by consumption.

Other recommendations from the report:
* Business action to reduce emissions focusing on all stages in the process: primary production, manufacture, distribution, consumer use and disposal.

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