Decent living gaps and energy needs around the world

Jarmo S. Kikstra*, Alessio Mastrucci, Jihoon Min, Keywan Riahi, Narasimha D. Rao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, there has been growing interest in defining what exactly constitutes "decent living standards"(DLS) - the material underpinnings of human well-being. We assess the gaps in providing decent health, shelter, nutrition, socialization, and mobility within countries, across the world. Our results show that more people are deprived of DLS than are income-poor, even when numbers are measured against medium income poverty thresholds. We estimate the cumulative energy needs for building out new infrastructure to support DLS provision for all by 2040 to be about 290 EJ, which amounts to less than three-quarters of current annual global energy demand, at the final energy level. The annual energy requirements to support decent living for the global population after 2040 is estimated to be 156 EJ yr-1. Present average energy demand levels in most countries exceed hypothetical DLS energy needs. Nevertheless, the required rate of increase in energy to provide decent living for all in the coming two decades would be unprecedented for many countries. Greater attention to equity would significantly reduce the need for growth. The per capita energy requirement of different countries to meet the same DLS levels varies by up to a factor of four due to differences in climate, urbanization, diets, and transport infrastructure. Transport energy dominates energy for decent living worldwide, while housing requirements dominate upfront energy investment needs. This study supports the claim that the increase in energy provision poverty eradication does not, in itself, pose a threat to mitigating climate change at a global scale. Distinguishing energy for affluence from energy for decent living could provide a basis for defining equitable access to sustainable development in energy terms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number095006
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • climate
  • decent living
  • energy
  • equity
  • human needs
  • poverty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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