The Concept of ‘Wellbeing’ as Driver of Future Mitigation
Dr. Tadhg O’ Mahony is Marie Sklodowska Curie postdoctoral fellow and senior researcher at the Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku, Finland. Originally from Ireland, Tadhg also spent two years as postdoctoral fellow at IMDEA Energy Institute in Spain. He has more than ten-years of experience in using scenarios, as both academic and private consultant. Tadhg holds a PhD from Dublin Institute of Technology, where in 2010 he completed his research on scenarios of the Irish energy system. His interests and approach are transdisciplinary across the energy, environment and sustainability domains, concerning not only the economic and technological aspects of energy and carbon emissions often detailed by modelling, but also wider social, cultural and policy dimensions. His current project, ‘MAXWELL,’ seeks to explore future wellbeing in the context of the need to reduce emissions in the EU.
Material consumption is a central concern of both development and mitigation. While mitigating climate change has become a core global development priority, global consumption continues to increase. This is complicated by the inequality of consumption both between and within states. While the ethics of addressing under-consumption are clear, the continuing over-consumption of the affluent, and the potential future growth in less developed countries, now present an enormous barrier to the significant reduction of emissions now required. The much discussed concept of decoupling by sustainable consumption and production (SCP) is important, but the ‘efficiency’ of this tends to become overwhelmed, and absolute increase continues. A more fundamental and controversial option is immaterialisation, or the decoupling of wellbeing from economic growth. Tied up in immaterialisation are different perspectives on wellbeing and the ‘good life,’ ethical, measurement and philosophical challenges and an ingrained perception of cost, loss and curtailed freedom. Nevertheless, such challenges are not in any way unusual, and could be described as intrinsic to the history of economic and social thought. A further exploration of immaterialisation has begun to what has been termed ‘the double-dividend.’ This is a type of decoupling where wellbeing increases while in parallel material consumption decreases. This seminar will examine some of the key issues linking material consumption to mitigation. It will review different perspectives on wellbeing and the accompanying ‘functions’ that this could involve to make it tangible. The seminar will conclude by using future scenarios as the framework to explore and discuss the potential analytical implications and policy opportunities offered by a more sustainable wellbeing.