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Behavioural solutions to the climate problem

by | Mar 21, 2022 | Climate, Place | 0 comments

Key insights from the LGA climate conference: helping local authorities to broach the climate subject.

With over 300 councils in England now having declared a climate emergency, climate change has become one of the key agenda items of local authority leaders. The UK Climate Change Committee has calculated that 62% of the emissions reductions required to reach net zero will involve some form of societal behaviour change. At IMPOWER we know that the behavioural challenges surrounding climate change would benefit from behavioural solutions.

Behavioural science is the study of human habits, actions, and intentions. Understanding behavioural science enables the public sector to better design ways of working and implement interventions for positive purposes and outcomes.

I recently attended the Local Government Association’s conference which looked in part at applying behaviour change techniques to the climate emergency. It was great to hear how councils are using applied behavioural science on climate related problems; from reducing litter in coastal areas to encouraging active travel to reduce carbon emissions. For me, there were four key takeaways:

There is a lot of concern over climate change, but this doesn’t always result in action.

 This is what’s known as a value action gap. Educational campaigns on climate change over recent years have meant that concern over the climate is at an all-time high. Whilst this is great news and a positive step towards net zero targets, this doesn’t necessarily translate into citizens changing their behaviour. Though 300 councils have declared climate emergencies, many do not have action plans in place to support changing citizen, partner, and businesses behaviours.

We need to start talking about climate change in a more positive way.

 The narrative around climate change needs to be reframed so that it is solution-focussed. The scale of climate change is such that discussions can create a sense of helplessness. As such, it is integral to create a structured approach that reframes this narrative. At IMPOWER we believe that Councils can reframe the climate problem from an abstract, international, or national one, to one which can be tangibly tackled from the ground up – led by communities and galvanising action on a local level.

Tackling climate change can be fun if you get creative.

Gamification can be a hugely powerful tool for changing behaviour. It works on an individual level, by using behaviour charts to set goals and build positive habits (e.g., eating plant-based foods X times per week). It also works at a community level, by getting local areas to compete against one another to reduce carbon emissions (e.g., the number of steps walked per head by local area).

Councils don’t have to do it alone.

Forming a consortium of climate-concerned organisations in your region to trial behavioural interventions can be a great way to pool together capacity and expertise and enable learning to be shared across partner organisations. At IMPOWER we have developed a model, the Climate Change Hive, designed to coordinate the system response to climate change through bringing together key partners from across the local area.

The LGA conference has illuminated some of the ways we can help clients navigate the complex process of evaluating, planning, and delivering climate change at a local level. Through our EDGEWORK® methodology we are going far beyond consulting and delivering reports, specialising in immersive consultation and engagement to deliver change at the front line. Using behavioural science will enable us to drive long term, measurable, and resilient change. We not only deliver this as standalone climate programmes but also consider the climate change lens in all our wider transformation projects.

If you’d like to know more about how we work please get in touch.