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Behaviour Change in the UK Climate Debate: An Assessment of Responsibility, Agency and Political Dimensions

Author

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  • Shane Fudge

    () (Research Group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment (RESOLVE), Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU27XH, UK)

  • Michael Peters

    () (Research Group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment (RESOLVE), Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU27XH, UK)

Abstract

This paper explores the politics around the role of agency in the UK climate change debate. Government interventions on the demand side of consumption have increasingly involved attempts to obtain greater traction with the values, attitudes and beliefs of citizens in relation to climate change and also in terms of influencing consumer behaviour at an individual level. With figures showing that approximately 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions are attributable to household and transport behaviour, policy initiatives have progressively focused on the facilitation of “sustainable behaviours”. Evidence suggests however, that mobilisation of pro-environmental attitudes in addressing the perceived “value-action gap” has so far had limited success. Research in this field suggests that there is a more significant and nuanced “gap” between context and behaviour; a relationship that perhaps provides a more adroit reflection of reasons why people do not necessarily react in the way that policy-makers anticipate. Tracing the development of the UK Government’s behaviour change agenda over the last decade, we posit that a core reason for the limitations of this programme relates to an excessively narrow focus on the individual. This has served to obscure some of the wider political and economic aspects of the debate in favour of a more simplified discussion. The second part of the paper reports findings from a series of focus groups exploring some of the wider political views that people hold around household energy habits, purchase and use of domestic appliances, and transport behaviour-and discusses these insights in relation to the literature on the agenda’s apparent limitations. The paper concludes by considering whether the aims of the Big Society approach (recently established by the UK’s Coalition Government) hold the potential to engage more directly with some of these issues or whether they merely constitute a “repackaging” of the individualism agenda.

Suggested Citation

  • Shane Fudge & Michael Peters, 2011. "Behaviour Change in the UK Climate Debate: An Assessment of Responsibility, Agency and Political Dimensions," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(6), pages 1-20, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:3:y:2011:i:6:p:789-808:d:12651
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mulugetta, Yacob & Jackson, Tim & van der Horst, Dan, 2010. "Carbon reduction at community scale," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(12), pages 7541-7545, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:3:p:254:d:65748 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Schmidt, Stephan & Weigt, Hannes, 2013. "A Review on Energy Consumption from a Socio-Economic Perspective: Reduction through Energy Efficiency and Beyond," Working papers 2013/15, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
    3. Helen Santiago Fink, 2016. "Human-Nature for Climate Action: Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Sustainability," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(3), pages 1-21, March.
    4. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:7:p:1132-:d:102958 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    environmental policy; climate change; agency; behaviour; lifestyles;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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