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Multiple models to inform climate change policy: A pragmatic response to the 'beyond the ABC' debate

Wilson, Charlie; Chatterton, Tim


Charlie Wilson


We have followed with interest the debate in this journal between Shove (2010; 2011) and Whitmarsh & colleagues (2011) on contrasting theoretical approaches and representations of pro-environmental behaviour and social change, and of the potential, rationale and merit of interdisciplinarity or integration. In this commentary, we offer a pragmatic response to the issues being debated from the perspective of policymakers concerned with near-term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This response is informed by the recent experience of one of us (Chatterton) during a year-long Research Council UK (RCUK) Energy Programme Fellowship as a social scientist based in the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC).

The title of this Fellowship, “Individuals’ and Communities’ Energy Behaviour”, reflects the dominant conceptualisation of behaviour among policymakers as elaborated by Shove (2010), as well as the prevailing interest within government in the potential for behaviour change to contribute towards policy goals. ‘Behaviour change’ policies are being promoted as an attractive alternative to the more established approaches of legislation, regulation, and taxation (p4, Dolan et al. 2010). The current UK government’s coalition agreement argues for “shunning the bureaucratic levers of the past and finding intelligent ways to encourage, support and enable people to make better choices for themselves” (pp7-8, HMG 2010b). Supporting institutional developments include the creation of the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Team in 2010, and the recent House of Lords Science & Technology Select Committee’s inquiry into “the use of behaviour change interventions to achieve policy goals” (p88, House_of_Lords 2011). Here, we are primarily concerned with climate change mitigation as the policy goal, itself often framed within broader sustainability objectives.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 19, 2011
Journal Environment and Planning A
Print ISSN 0308-518X
Electronic ISSN 1472-3409
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 12
Pages 2781-2787
APA6 Citation Wilson, C., & Chatterton, T. (2011). Multiple models to inform climate change policy: A pragmatic response to the 'beyond the ABC' debate. Environment and Planning A, 43(12), 2781-2787.
Keywords climate change, policy
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : Wilson, C. and Chatterton, T. 2011. The definitive, peer-reviewed and edited version of this article is to be published in Environment and Planning A, volume, issue, pages, year, and DOI to be confirmed


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