Article | Published:

Public acceptance of resource-efficiency strategies to mitigate climate change

Nature Climate Changevolume 8pages10071012 (2018) | Download Citation

Abstract

Rapid action to improve resource efficiency is essential for achieving climate mitigation goals. As they are likely to reshape everyday life in unexpected ways, new products, policies and business models will need to consider the public acceptability of resource-efficiency strategies, as well as the technical emission-reduction potential. Here, using consumption-based emissions modelling and deliberative public workshops, we find considerable public support for a range of resource-efficiency strategies that combined could reduce the carbon footprint in the United Kingdom by up to 29 Mt of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) emissions (a 39% emissions reduction from household products, such as cars, clothing, electronics, appliances and furniture). Public acceptability is already high for strategies that aim to develop more resource-efficient products. Strategies that aim to encourage product sharing and extend product lifetimes were also perceived positively, although acceptance was dependent on meeting other important conditions, such as trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness, affordability, convenience, safety and hygiene.

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Data availability

The UK MRIO raw data cannot be made publicly available, because it makes use of protected data from the Office of National Statistics. We calculate GHG footprints using the MRIO model and have provided the GHG emissions results in Supplementary Data 1b. Assumptions on the ambition and adoption rate of the material productivity strategies are provided in Supplementary Data 1c and the emissions savings are given in Supplementary Data 1d. We will consider requests to share the MRIO tables (for research purposes only) on a case-by-case basis. In relation to the workshops, the audio files and transcripts cannot be made publicly available due to the need to respect participant confidentiality. However, we will consider requests to share the anonymized transcripts (for research purposes only) on a case-by-case basis after an embargo of two years, during which time our analysis continues. Any other data are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. The demographic data and deliberative workshop protocol and materials are available in Supplementary Table 1 and Supplementary Methods 1 and 2. Images have been redacted for copyright reasons.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for this research was provided by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of the Energy Programme, and undertaken by the Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIE-MAP) (grant EP/N022645/1), the related EPSRC collaborative grant (EP/M008053/1) and the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) (grant NE/R012881/1). We thank our CIE-MAP colleagues and partners Green Alliance, whose input and advice has been invaluable throughout the development of this research project.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Understanding Risk Group, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

    • Catherine Cherry
    •  & Nick Pidgeon
  2. Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products, University of Leeds , Leeds, UK

    • Catherine Cherry
    • , Kate Scott
    • , John Barrett
    •  & Nick Pidgeon
  3. Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

    • Kate Scott
    •  & John Barrett
  4. Department of Geography, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

    • Kate Scott

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Contributions

C.C., K.S., J.B. and N.P. were involved in the conceptualization of the research; K.S. and J.B. designed the quantitative modelling and methodology; K.S. performed quantitative modelling analyses; C.C. and N.P. designed qualitative workshop and methodology; C.C. performed qualitative data analyses; C.C. and K.S. wrote the original draft; C.C., K.S., J.B. and N.P. were involved in writing, review and editing of the manuscript; J.B. and N.P. acquired funding.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Catherine Cherry.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary notes 1–3, Supplementary methods 1–2, Supplementary table 1, Supplementary references

  2. Reporting Summary

  3. Supplementary Data 1

    Includes all supplementary data quantifying emissions savings from the resource-efficiency strategies: Descriptions of strategies, Baseline scenarios, Case study descriptions, Emissions savings by case study, Emissions savings by strategy, Adoption and ambition analysis, Results summary

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0298-3