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Transitioning to low carbon communities--from behaviour change to systemic change: Lessons from Australia


  • Moloney, Susie
  • Horne, Ralph E.
  • Fien, John


Transitioning to low carbon communities requires an understanding of community practices and resultant emissions, as well as the technologies, infrastructures and institutions associated with and accessed by communities. Moreover, it requires an understanding of the connections between these integrated system components, its dynamics, a defined transition and potential 'levers' involved in 'transitioning'. This paper accepts the notion that 'levers' include programmes designed to achieve practice or behaviour change in households which result in less carbon intensive lifestyles, and focuses on the factors that shape human behaviour and influence householder energy consumption. Research to date by the authors and others indicates that a comprehensive socio-technical framework that considers both individual psychological factors as well as the systems, standards and norms under which individuals operate is fundamental to the development of successful strategies to shift towards low carbon communities. A database has been compiled of over one hundred local programmes aimed at realising carbon neutral communities across Australia largely through approaches to behaviour change. This paper presents the findings of an analysis of these programmes, particularly with regard to the extent to which they take account of a socio-technical framework or understanding of domestic consumption behaviours and whether they are aware of or aim to influence changing standards and expectations around consumption practices within the home. While a number of exemplary community-based programmes adopt an integrated approach to addressing both technical and behavioural dimensions in the shift to low carbon communities, it was found that most fail to take sufficient account of the systems, standards and norms shaping consumption. Conclusions include directions for policy and programme design based on the study findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Moloney, Susie & Horne, Ralph E. & Fien, John, 2010. "Transitioning to low carbon communities--from behaviour change to systemic change: Lessons from Australia," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(12), pages 7614-7623, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:38:y:2010:i:12:p:7614-7623

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Elizabeth Shove, 2004. "Efficiency and Consumption: Technology and Practice," Energy & Environment, , vol. 15(6), pages 1053-1065, November.
    2. Geels, Frank W., 2002. "Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: a multi-level perspective and a case-study," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(8-9), pages 1257-1274, December.
    3. Harriet Bulkeley & Matt Watson & Ray Hudson, 2007. "Modes of Governing Municipal Waste," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 39(11), pages 2733-2753, November.
    4. Productivity Commission, 2005. "The Private Cost Effectiveness of Improving Energy Efficiency," Inquiry Reports, Productivity Commission, Government of Australia, number 36.
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