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The potential of behavioural change for climate change mitigation: a case study for the European Union

Dirk-Jan van de Ven (), Mikel González-Eguino and Iñaki Arto
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Dirk-Jan van de Ven: Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3)
Iñaki Arto: Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3)

Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 2018, vol. 23, issue 6, 853-886

Abstract: Abstract Mainstream literature on climate change concentrates overwhelmingly on technological solutions for this global long-term problem, while a change towards climate-friendly behaviour could play a role in emission reduction and has received little attention. This paper focuses on the potential climate mitigation by behavioural change in the European Union (EU) covering many behavioural options in food, mobility and housing demand which do not require any personal up-front investment. We use the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM), capturing both their direct and indirect implications in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Our results indicate that modest to rigorous behavioural change could reduce per capita footprint emissions by 6 to 16%, out of which one fourth will take place outside the EU, predominantly by reducing land use change. The domestic emission savings would contribute to reduce the costs of achieving the internationally agreed climate goal of the EU by 13.5 to 30%. Moreover, many of these options would also yield co-benefits such as monetary savings, positive health impacts or animal wellbeing. These results imply the need for policymakers to focus on climate education and awareness programs more seriously and strategically, making use of the multiple co-benefits related with adopting pro-environmental behaviour. Apart from that, the relevance of behavioural change in climate change mitigation implies that policy-informing models on climate change should include behavioural change as a complement or partial alternative to technological change.

Keywords: Climate change; Mitigation; Behavioural change; Diet change; Mobility; Land-use change; Waste recycling; Policy costs; Footprint emissions (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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