Household Preferences to Reduce Their Greenhouse Gas Footprint: A Comparative Study from Four European Cities


This paper investigates households’ preferences to reduce their carbon footprint (CF) measured in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). It assumes that a substantial CF reduction of households is essential to reach the 1.5 °C goal under the Paris Agreement. Data was collected in four mid-size cities in France, Germany, Norway, and Sweden. Quantitative data was obtained from 308 households using a CF calculator based on a questionnaire, and a simulation game. The latter investigated households’ preferences when being confronted with the objective to reduce their CF by 50 percent by 2030 in a voluntary and forced scenario. Our results show that the greater the CO2e-reduction potential of a mitigation action, the less willing a household was to implement that action. Households preferred actions with moderate lifestyle changes foremost in the food sector. Voluntarily, households reached a 25% footprint reduction by 2030. To reach a substantial reduction of 50 percent, households needed to choose actions that meant considerable lifestyle changes, mainly related to mobility. Given our results, the 1.5 °C goal is unlikely to be realizable currently, unless households receive major policy support. Lastly, the strikingly similar preferences of households in the four European cities investigated seem to justify strong EU and international policies.