Open Access (electronic) BASE

The desirability of transitions in demand: Incorporating behavioural and societal transformations into energy modelling (2020)


Quantitative systems modelling in support of climate policy has tended to focus more on the supply side in assessing interactions among technology, economy, environment, policy and society. By contrast, the demand side is usually underrepresented, often emphasising technological options for energy efficiency improvements. In this perspective, we argue that scientific support to climate action is not only about exploring capacity of "what", in terms of policy and outcome, but also about assessing feasibility and desirability, in terms of "when", "where" and especially for "whom". Without the necessary behavioural and societal transformations, the world faces an inadequate response to the climate crisis challenge. This could result from poor uptake of low-carbon technologies, continued high-carbon intensive lifestyles, or economy-wide rebound effects. For this reason, we propose a framing for a holistic and transdisciplinary perspective on the role of human choices and behaviours in influencing the low-carbon transition, starting from the desires of individuals and communities, and analysing how these interact with the energy and economic landscape, leading to systemic change at the macro-level. In making a case for a political ecology agenda, we expand our scope, from comprehending the role of societal acceptance and uptake of end-use technologies, to co-developing knowledge with citizens from non-mainstream and marginalised communities, and to defining the modelling requirements to assess the decarbonisation potential of shifting lifestyle patterns in climate change and action.