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November 3, 2009

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An individual key to climate change

INDIVIDUALS' unfriendly environmental behavior had become a real obstacle for tackling climate change, experts said yesterday at the China Energy and Environment Summit in Beijing.

"Compared with developing clean energy, it will be more difficult to change people's consumption perception and behavior," said Li Junfeng, deputy director of the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission.

Li said in recent years, like American customers, China's newly affluent people preferred to buy gas-guzzling vehicles, bigger apartments and higher-powered air-conditioners, which would "lead to terrible consequences."

Li's warning echoed a report issued by the World Bank in September. Titled "Climate Change and Individual Behavior," the report said climate change was anthropogenic - the product of billions of acts of daily consumption.

However, most suggested solutions neglected a crucial factor: individual behavior.

Bernice Lee, research director of energy, environment and resource governance in the Royal Institute of International Affairs, said it was important to ensure sustainable consumption, but lifestyle change could be difficult to redirect in the short term.

"We need technologies, price incentives, regulations, standards and investment in the right infrastructure to shape behavioral change," Lee said.

Individual behavior was closely related to the development level of the city people lived in, said Daniel Rosen, principal of Rhodium Group and visiting fellow of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Inhabitants of a city boasting convenient public transport often prefer taking a bus to driving a car, he said.

The summit, themed "Clean Energy - Man's Future, Mutual Responsibility," was organized by the China Chamber of International Commerce and the Financial Times.

The summit closes today.


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