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The cultural barriers to a low-carbon future: A review of six mobility and energy transitions across 28 countries


  • Sovacool, Benjamin K.
  • Griffiths, Steve


This review focuses on how culture can complicate and impede attempts at promoting more efficient, more sustainable, and often more affordable forms of mobility as well as energy use in homes and buildings. In simpler terms: it illustrates the cultural barriers to a low-carbon, low-energy future across 28 countries. Rather than focus on energy supply, it deals intently with energy end-use, demand, and consumption. In terms of low-carbon transport and mobility, it examines the cultural barriers to aggressive driving, speeding, and eco-driving; automated vehicles; and ridesharing and carpooling. In terms of cooking and building energy use, it examines the cultural barriers to solar home systems, improved cookstoves, and energy efficient heating, cooling, and hot water practices. For each case, the review synthesizes a wide range of studies showing that culture can operate as a salient but often unacknowledged barrier to low-carbon transitions as well as sustainability transitions more generally. The paper concludes with recommendations aimed at catalyzing the effectiveness and efficiency with which policymakers, researchers and practitioners are able to research, develop, demonstrate and deploy culturally appropriate technologies and policies for a low-carbon transition.

Suggested Citation

  • Sovacool, Benjamin K. & Griffiths, Steve, 2020. "The cultural barriers to a low-carbon future: A review of six mobility and energy transitions across 28 countries," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 119(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:rensus:v:119:y:2020:i:c:s1364032119307774
    DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2019.109569

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Papadis, Elisa & Tsatsaronis, George, 2020. "Challenges in the decarbonization of the energy sector," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 205(C).
    2. Malene Freudendal-Pedersen & Katrine Hartmann-Petersen & Freja Friis & Malene Rudolf Lindberg & Thomas Skou Grindsted, 2020. "Sustainable Mobility in the Mobile Risk Society—Designing Innovative Mobility Solutions in Copenhagen," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(17), pages 1-17, September.


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