Effect lifestyle on carbon emissions
It is not only technological innovations that will help us make the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. If the energy transition is to succeed, human behaviour can play a role as well. By adapting our lifestyles, for example using energy more sparingly, buying less, or changing our diet we can contribute to reduce the CO2 footprint. TNO is investigating the effect of lifestyle change to the energy transition and reduction of carbon emissions.
Read the report: Verkenning anders consumeren om klimaatdoelen te halen (Dutch)
An exploration of ways to change the system and how everyone can contribute to it.
Energy consumption approach
Considerable attention is currently being focused on how we can make the switch to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Reducing our energy consumption is another approach that can certainly form part of the energy transition – alongside consuming energy efficiently and in a different way – to help us achieve our climate goals. With this in mind, TNO is taking steps to connect with government, industry, NGOs and citizens and help these parties with the problems they are facing.
The question here is not only how we can ensure that we use renewable energy, such as solar and wind, but also how we can get people to consume less energy. To answer this, we look at the individual, what influences the physical and social environment have on consumers, and how we can make it easier for them to adapt their behaviour. We are looking for levers and social ‘tipping points’ that can bring about systemic change.
A different way of consuming and carbon emission reduction
In addition to the efficiency improvements mentioned above, changing the way we consume is an option that offers a great deal of potential when it comes to mitigating climate change – one that could help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40-70%. In addition, a different way of consuming could mean fewer imports are required, helping the Netherlands reduce its dependence on other countries.
Personal emission rights
One area TNO has investigated is how people could be encouraged to limit activities that cause greenhouse gas emissions by means of a personal emissions trading scheme. This involves, for example, consuming gas and electricity, driving a car, flying, eating meat, and so on. We gave a large group of Dutch people a fictitious quantity of free emission rights – enough to last a year for an average household. We wanted to find out whether there is support for such a personal emissions trading scheme as an incentive for behavioural change. Roughly a third of those surveyed considered it a good idea to think more about their lifestyle in this way. In addition, half were in favour provided that the rights are shared fairly. Support increases to two-thirds if companies start paying more for carbon emissions. The results provide starting points for developing targeted policies.
Footprint calculators: insights into behavioural change
Our research shows that although footprint calculators, which are used to calculate how much greenhouse gas you are emitting, lead to greater awareness, people find it difficult to actually change their behaviour. Further steps are needed to make this change happen. Possible solutions could include connecting people to a ‘community’ that allows them to support, help, and give tips to each other. In addition, sustainable behaviour should be made easier and incentivised more through legislation and infrastructure, such as better public transport.
Futuring: harnessing our imaginations to create a sustainable future
Positive visions of the future of our society are influential and possibly even an essential stimulus for change. It has been demonstrated that people find it hard to picture the long-term future. However, if we want to move towards a sustainable future, we need to use our imaginations to sketch out the possibilities. Futuring is a method that allows us to do just that. This is less about predicting the future and more about harnessing our imaginations and examining trends so we can picture possible future scenarios, which can then provide a basis for interventions in the here and now. TNO has employed visioning, a futuring technique, to try to find ways of breaking unsustainable eating habits. This involves using our imaginations to visualise the future of – in this case – eating patterns.
After all, meat production alone accounts for around one-seventh of all greenhouse gas emissions. Changing eating patterns could therefore make a real difference. However, getting people to switch from animal to vegetable proteins, for example, is not easy. How do you break eating habits? Children are receptive to changing existing rituals for the sake of the environment and climate. We therefore visited a number of primary schools to listen to schoolchildren.
Geerte ParadiesFunctie:Scientist Innovator
Telefoon:+31 88 866 36 88
LinkedIn:Geerte on LinkedIn
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