EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Socio-economic conditions for satisfying human needs at low energy use: an international analysis of provisioning factors

Jefim Vogel1, Julia K. Steinberger1,2, Daniel W. O'Neill1, William F. Lamb1,3, and Jaya Krishnakumar4
Jefim Vogel et al.
  • 1Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK (
  • 2Institute of Geography and Sustainability, Faculty of Geosciences and Environment, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 3Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Berlin, Germany
  • 4Institute of Economics and Econometrics, Geneva School of Economics and Management, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland

Meeting human needs at low levels of energy use is fundamental for avoiding catastrophic climate change and securing the well-being of all people. In the current international political-economic regime, no country does so.

Here, we assess which socio-economic conditions might enable societies to satisfy human needs at sustainable levels of energy use, and thus reconcile human well-being with ambitious climate mitigation. Applying a novel analytical framework and a novel regression-based moderation approach to data from 106 countries, we analyse how the relationship between energy use and six dimensions of human need satisfaction varies with a wide range of socio-economic factors relevant to the provisioning of goods and services (‘provisioning factors’).

We find that higher achievements in provisioning factors such as income equality, public service quality, democracy and electricity access are associated with greater need satisfaction and lower energy dependence of need satisfaction. Conversely, higher levels of economic growth and extractivism are associated with lower need satisfaction and greater energy dependence of need satisfaction. Our analysis suggests that countries with beneficial configurations of key provisioning factors are much more likely to reach high levels of need satisfaction at low(er) levels of energy use. Based on our statistical models, countries with highly beneficial configurations of several key provisioning factors could likely achieve sufficient need satisfaction within levels of energy use found compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 °C without negative emissions technologies. Achieving this would be very unlikely for countries with detrimental provisioning configurations.

Improvements in relevant provisioning factors may thus be crucial for ending human deprivation in currently underproviding countries without exacerbating climate and ecological crises, and for tackling the ecological overshoot of currently needs-satisfying countries without compromising sufficient need satisfaction. However, as key pillars of the suggested changes in provisioning run contrary to the dominant political-economic regime, a broader political-economic transformation may be required to organise provisioning for the satisfaction of human needs within sustainable levels of energy use.

Our findings have important implications for climate mitigation, poverty eradication, development discourses, and efforts towards Sustainable Development Goals and socio-ecological transformation.

How to cite: Vogel, J., Steinberger, J. K., O'Neill, D. W., Lamb, W. F., and Krishnakumar, J.: Socio-economic conditions for satisfying human needs at low energy use: an international analysis of provisioning factors, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13703,, 2021.

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