Barriers, emotions, and motivational levers for lifestyle transformation in Norwegian household decarbonization pathways
Meeting the Paris Agreement targets requires strong near-term climate change mitigation in all sectors of the economy. Increasing demand-side emission abatement efforts is one important area to pursue, yet there are significant barriers that must be overcome in order to realize its potential. We ask: What barriers may be hindering deep emissions reduction at the household level? What kinds of levers are available to achieve emission reductions? Based on an original and extensive qualitative dataset, our in-depth study of households in Bergen, Norway, shows that individuals perceive they are confronted with considerable individual, economic, and infrastructural barriers that prevent them from taking deep mitigation actions. Our results however also suggest that some barriers can be overcome with motivational levers such as the availability of more sustainable alternatives, support networks and by the positive emotions felt when having a positive impact on the environment. Other barriers are more difficult to overcome, pointing to the overarching lesson from our study that households will need to be forced or incentivized beyond voluntary efforts to achieve rapid and comprehensive decarbonization. The current policy approach, aimed mostly at nudging for voluntary mitigation actions, is wholly inadequate to achieve significant emission reductions. Our study indicates that households are open for increasingly including more “sticks” into climate policymaking. While there are significant challenges to individuals taking stronger mitigation action, these can be overcome by strengthening government policies targeting the patterns and, importantly, volumes of household consumption.