Maximizing affluence within the planetary boundaries

R. Heijungs, A. de Koning, J.B. Guinée

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: Ordinary product LCA studies focus on measuring or minimizing environmental impact, but do not address if the product fits in a sustainable consumption pattern. This paper proposes a setup in which the planetary boundaries define the maximum impact, and the minimum requirements for a reasonable consumption level specify a lower impact level. Thus, a "safe operating space" remains. Methods: We use an IO table for EU-27 and the consumption pattern of the Bulgarian population extrapolated to the EU level as driving climate impact. The EU's policy targets are used as a planetary boundary for climate change. Results: The 2020 target is shown to be able to accommodate the Bulgarian-style consumption, with room for a much higher GDP. The 2050 target, however, is too narrow, and a slightly smaller consumption pattern is needed to reach the target. Conclusions: Although the approach is highly simplified and neglects many developments, the idea of using IO-tables and minimum consumption levels to backcast directions to be taken is expected to help policymakers. We acknowledge some important limitations of our approach, but accept these in the context of exploring future scenarios and how to get there, instead of predicting the future. © 2014 Springer-Verlag.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1331-1335
JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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