Decent Living Emissions: A Conceptual Framework

Sustainability, 4(4):656-681, 2012

26 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2012

Date Written: April 18, 2012


There is very little elaboration in literature of the phrase “equitable access to sustainable development” that is referenced in the Cancun Agreement on climate change. We interpret this at a minimum as people’s right to a decent living standard, which gives rise to claims by countries to an exemption from mitigation for the energy and emissions needed to provide a decent life to all. We elaborate a conceptual framework for a comprehensive quantification of such an energy requirement, including the energy required to build out infrastructure to support these living standards. We interpret decent living as the consumption by households of a set of basic goods including adequate nutrition, shelter, health care, education, transport, refrigeration, television and mobile phones. We develop universal indicators for these activities and their infrastructure requirements, and specify a methodology to convert these to energy requirements using energy input-output analysis. Our main recommendations include estimating bottom-up, country-specific energy and emissions requirements, incorporating a minimum for methane emissions, and using international benchmarks at the sector level to encourage the reduction of countries’ energy and emissions intensity.

Keywords: climate change, equity, energy, sustainable development, human rights, basic needs

JEL Classification: O1,O5, Q4

Suggested Citation

Rao, Narasimha D. and Baer, Paul, Decent Living Emissions: A Conceptual Framework (April 18, 2012). Sustainability, 4(4):656-681, 2012, Available at SSRN:

Narasimha D. Rao (Contact Author)

IIASA ( email )

Schlossplatz 1
Laxenburg, A-2361

Paul Baer


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