There were some interesting insights from a recent workshop SERI on “Macro-economic effects of sustainable energy consumption“. Based on Austria’s climate and energy targets for 2020, the effects of three central measures on the economy, environment and society were examined. It became clear that a massive, holistic effort is necessary and possible!
Investment in renewable energy, increase of energy efficiency and changes in our personal lifestyles – these are the three measures whose effects on GDP growh, economic sectors, trade, jobs, CO2 emissions, the energy mix and other economic and ecologic indicators were quantified. Once again, it was shown that investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency have positive effects on growth and employment.
I was particularly interested in the simulation results of behavioral changes which highlighted the remarkable potential of these measures that are often overlooked by politics and the media. Although radical changes of our personal lifestyles are probably unrealistic until 2020 as negative short-term effects on growth are politically not feasible in times of crisis, we shouldn’t forget this area. Because this is where everyone of us can contribute to a sustainable future today.
In particular, it was shown that the area of behavioral changes has enormous potential and will lead to medium- to long-term improvements in quality of life and economic chances (positive effects on growth and employment). Therefore, political efforts regarding renewable energy and energy efficiency need to be supplemented with (voluntary) behavioral changes. Here, information, awarenewss-raising and actions at the regional and local level are keys to success!
Only a comprehensive effort in all these three areas will guarantee a positive and long-term sustainable development. The areas for action are diverse and known: Attractive feed-in tariffs, an ecological tax reform, investment subsidies, thermal refurbishment, more efficient heating technologies, targeted residential building subsidies, local/regional actions (sharing efforts, time banks, Agenda 21, environmental learning, etc.), investment in public transportation and cycling, etc.
It is clear: These multifaceted answers to the energy, climate and economic crises are exciting elements of the necessary transformation of our society!