Final Report Summary - SEFIRA (Socio-economic implications for individual responses to Air Pollution Policies in EU +27)
SEFIRA had the objective of creating a European coordination of transdisciplinary scientific and socio-economic resources in order to support the review and implementation of air quality legislation by the European Commission (EC) led by DG Environment. The EC has now given increased attention to the socio-economic dimension of air quality policies in order to improve their effectiveness and acceptability. SEFIRA has coordinated some of the best scientific and socio-economic resources In Europe to review air quality policies and legislation at the interface between environmental, economic and social sciences with the final aim of achieving a deeper understanding of such complex issues.
Individual behaviours and choices have been analysed in a socio-economic context ranging from the local to the European level.
The main fields involved in the action were atmospheric sciences, environmental and legal sociology, anthropology, geography and economics.
The integration of disciplines, the relationship with the most relevant stakeholders and an effective coordination between the SEFIRA consortium and other European projects in the same field has been achieved. The project strategy supported the development of a new European appraisal of problems and resources in the field, deployed a pilot survey and a test of policy implementation by innovative models of individual choices analysis. The relevant stakeholders have been involved from the beginning of the project in a process of dialogue and cooperative problem solving in order to ensure relevance and robustness as the work progressed from the local to the European level.
Project Context and Objectives:
The main objectives of SEFIRA at the start of the project were:
1. To integrate scientific and technical knowledge on air quality with the socio-economic aspects of national, regional and EU wide implications of air pollution policies;
2. To explore ways to better integrate the socio-economic dimension in those policies, especially with respect to preferences, behaviours and responses of individuals, stakeholder groups and civil society, to obtain a better understanding of the feasibility and acceptability of the implementation of those policies;
3. To develop a specific analytic method based on discrete choice models that integrate quantitative and qualitative data on European population attitudes and actions toward air quality regulations;
4. To provide specific reports in support to the on-going revision and implementation of the EU air policy.
5. To produce an integrated transdisciplinary synthesis report to DG Environment and peer-reviewed papers.
The European Commission through DG Environment began in 2011 a review of EU air quality legislation, concentrating mainly, but not exclusively, on the 2008 Air Quality Directive (AQD) and the 2001 National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD). To assist in this review, the Commission funded a wide range of projects including the projection of future emissions across the EU Member States and possible policies and technologies which might deliver these future emissions, modelling of the air quality consequences of these emissions in terms of compliance with the air quality limits in the AQD, and in terms of their health and environmental impacts. This also involved a review of the health effects of air pollution being carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the REVIHAAP project.
The majority of the inputs to the review have been based on physical, chemical and medical sciences, with additional economic analysis of costs and benefits. In practice, the preferred method of assessing the acceptability of policies [uptake by citizens of individual-level measures to improve air quality] has been through cost-benefit analysis. Although this is a valuable tool, it is of limited value in assessing the wider acceptability of policies, particularly in relation to the impact on individual behaviours in civil society and the general public. A wider and deeper comprehension of the social-economic implications of the air policies is needed especially focusing on preferences, behaviour and responses of individuals and stakeholder groups that often influence the outcomes of those policies with their uptake or passive or active resistance to certain procedures and legislations. Innovative approaches and tools are needed for policy makers to facilitate the proper consideration and uptake of available scientific knowledge in policy-making. Such a challenge needed an innovative and cooperative approach between disciplines that in the past have had a low degree of integration. In this context, the objective of SEFIRA was to provide the EC with valuable and up-to-date information on individual and social choices and inclinations, to test methods of policy evaluation, development and implementation, and to provide better coordination between research projects, public authorities and policy stakeholders.
At international level it is possible to define a field of research that aims at a better integration of multiple disciplines from different fields, both natural and social sciences, in order to improve decision making in contexts of growing complexity. We make reference to the growing integration between different disciplinary domains in the context of the wide and complex field of sustainability studies and of the global policies for example relating to the containment of climate change phenomena. The central role that environmental issues have gained in our society is quickly pushing toward a wider and deeper integration of hard science and social science in an “ecology of knowledge” that is urgently needed, and has not received much attention at governmental and institutional levels until now. The analysis of air quality policies and regulations and their impact on the population needs to be considered both separately and together with a whole set of environmental regulations and norms that are well established in the EU 27. Even though Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and their impact on climate change are closely connected with the field of air pollution, SEFIRA was not concentrating on climate change as the main research focus. However climate issues have been often taken into account due to their connection with air quality issues. SEFIRA used a transdisciplinary approach including: a) an atmospheric science policy analysis; b) sociological, geographical, legal, anthropological research on acceptability of air quality policies and on awareness about individual and collective responsibilities about it; c) CAWI (Computer Assisted Web Interviewing) questionnaire and a socio-economic pilot survey with a Discrete Choice Model (DCM) assessment applied to air quality. All the disciplines have been coordinated by a multidisciplinary team using a methodology aimed at understanding the key elements for assessing air quality policies and legislation. This, in order to maximise the level of acceptability and uptake by stakeholders and civil society.
The growing attention of the citizenship to air quality and environmental policies and the conflicts that arise on this issue marks a turning point in the relationship between technical and scientific expertise and the delivery of acceptable policies. SEFIRA has therefore coordinated three different visions of sustainability: social, economic and environmental. That effort needs the contribution of transdisciplinary skills and knowledge. For this reason anthropological and social, economic and atmospheric sciences have been co-ordinated to strengthen the EU approach to sustainability in the specific field of air quality. SEFIRA also reviewed and studied the most relevant good practices about the policy initiatives and tools employed in air quality policies from the local to the European level with a strong focus on individual and social behaviours toward air pollution reduction.
a) Atmospheric science and air quality policies
SEFIRA dis not undertake new scientific analysis of air pollution policies, but rather integrated and assessed the existing work in the context of socio-economic analysis. This in coordination with two FP7 coordination and support actions: APPRAISAL, aimed at consolidating and assessing the research results in the field of air quality modelling and to make them accessible to policy makers and ACCENT-Plus is aimed at facilitating the transfer of scientific research results into policy/decision making through a continuous coordination and integration of the European atmospheric science community. Of particular importance in the present context was the work that DG Environment funded at IIASA, involving the projection of future emission scenarios and implicit policies with a view to attaining the targets in the Commission’s Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution. SEFIRA includes IIASA as a partner and the outputs from this scenario analysis identified a selection of policies to be investigated and assessed in a socio-economic context.
b) Social sciences and air quality research on policies
Environmental problems relating to air quality have become both a relevant scientific and technical issue as well as a socially constructed problem first in the developed and then also in the developing countries during the 20th century. Different disciplines have addressed a complex field at the interface between hard sciences, social sciences and policies, using different methodologies of research: from environmental psychology and sociology, to economics, anthropology and history. Regarding air quality, the European Commission has produced the Eurobarometer surveys showing that air quality stands at the top of the environmental concerns and priorities expressed by he EU 27 population but it does not provide any insights on the motivations of such concerns or on the interactions between individual characters and social determinants. The analysis of individual choices has been focused on the use of private car and household emissions, both important sources of harmful emissions and noise pollution. Those aspects have to be put into a closer relationship to the whole context of social interactions that motivate ecological choices and attitudes.
c) Discrete choice analysis
As it incorporates different economic theories, the theoretical foundation of Discrete Choice Analysis (DCAs) is rather complex. DCAs is based on probabilistic theory as one cannot perfectly predict choices due to unobservable parameters and departures from economically rational decision making. Therefore, instead of identifying one option as the chosen option, each alternative is assigned a probability to be chosen. The question of public acceptability is a key issue for sustainable mobility. Since car use is expected to increase, policy makers may perceive it necessary to implement more restrictive measures even though the acceptability is low. Acceptability has been suggested as one of the main dimensions of attitudes and has been used as a tool for assessing attitudes in a number of studies that have shown that the perceived effectiveness of these policies is an important determinant of their acceptability.
Integrated assessment models as currently used in air quality policy development provide an interdisciplinary approach, combining atmospheric science, technology and economics, to support ex-ante decision-making by combining quantitative models representing different systems and scales into a framework for integrated assessment. Among the quantitative techniques available a methodology rarely used but that is well suited to SEFIRA’s objectives is the Choice-Based Conjoint Analysis (CBCA), based on the application of DCMs. In recent years this method has been increasingly used to analyse environmental aspects and in particular air quality issues related to transport. However, before the SEFIRA pilot research, differences in the acceptability of air quality policies according to the different socio-economic categories have received too little attention.
SEFIRA overall strategy
The acceptability of air quality and policies depends to some degree on a perception of environmental and social justice and on personal attitudes and behaviours linked to social and cultural determinations. These are fundamental factors in improving the uptake by EU citizens of policies. SEFIRA addressed the key aspect of policy review with the objective of facilitating knowledge transfer and uptake by the population using appropriate tools and models to manage information and data for policy makers within Europe. In order to achieve such ambitious results, an interdisciplinary and multifaceted methodology has been applied.
SEFIRA four main areas - atmospheric sciences, policy analysis, social sciences, economics – have been integrated through a transdisciplinary approach, which required a common understanding of technical terms (i.e. the term preferences, or quality of life, could mean something different to an economist than to a sociologist). SEFIRA started with a transdisciplinary review of air and noise pollution and policies, in order to form a basis for the assessment of the socio-economic implications of those policies. Each research activity contributed to the pilot research producing inputs to the CAWI survey conducted in seven European countries. The CAWI data have been elaborated applying Discrete Choice Model analysis in order to provide policy implementation tools and testing. The consortium organised thematic workshops in the disciplinary fields of the research and also integration seminars and documents. SEFIRA aimed at a better coordination between experts, policy-makers and civil society organizations. All the process built spaces and communication tools in order to establish a direct feedback with European, national and local stakeholders.
SEFIRA provided innovations in the landscape of academic cooperation on the topic of air quality policies:
1) Enlarging both geographical and disciplinary boundaries in the field of policy researches
2) Sharing theoretical and methodological innovation between partners and stakeholders
3) Adding to the possible methodologies for policy analysis the use of dedicated discrete choice models to improve the level of prediction of possible individual and social behaviours in the field of air quality.
During the 36 months of the project, SEFIRA has carried out a number of important activities to meet the project objectives. The first important activity, coinciding with the start of the project in June 2013, has been the involvement of the SEFIRA consortium in the European Green Week, organised by the European Commission from the 2nd to the 7th of June 2013 under the theme “Cleaner air for all”. The event, held in the Egg Conference Centre in Brussels, was focused on Air Quality. Here SEFIRA participated through the submission of a questionnaire and the realisation of about hundred face-to-face interviews to relevant stakeholders and scientists.
During the first months of the project close link have been established with two FP7 Coordinating and Support Actions aimed at integrating the most important scientific contributions to air quality and policy studies: APPRAISAL, aimed at consolidating and assessing the research results in the field of air quality modelling and to make them accessible to policy makers and ACCENT-Plus, aimed at facilitating the transfer of scientific research results into policy/decision making through a continuous coordination and integration of the European atmospheric science community.
The coordinator of APPRAISAL has been included in the SEFIRA Expert Advisory Board and the coordinating institution of ACCENT-Plus is part of the SEFIRA consortium. Such collaboration resulted in the co-organisation by the three projects, of the session “Integrated Assessment” during the ACCENT-Plus International Symposium “Bringing together the European Research in atmospheric composition change Challenges for the next decade”, Urbino 17 -20 September 2013. Within this session SEFIRA was present with an oral presentation “Analysis of air quality policy acceptance of individuals: a discrete choice pilot survey within the SEFIRA project” given by E. Valeri et al., and a Poster entitled “The SEFIRA project: notes about experts’ perspective on air-quality problems”, reporting the results of the analysis of the questionnaire and interviews carried out during the Green Week.
More recently the close collaboration among the three projects resulted in the realisation of a Special Issue of the Elsevier journal “Environmental Science and Policy”. The Issue entitled “Research findings in support EU air quality planning: experiences from the ACCENT+, APPRAISAL and SEFIRA FP7 projects” has been closed in June 2016 and it contains, among others, three papers that are related to SEFIRA activity.
This special issue builds upon the results of the three projects and is introduced by a paper by Guariso et al. “A decision framework for integrated assessment modelling of air quality at regional and local scale”, that explains how the problems related to anthropogenic air pollution, their impacts and the necessary mitigation measures can be framed within the well-known DPSIR (Drivers-Pressures-State-Impact-Response) suggested by the EEA. Adopting this scheme, it has been possible to systematically analyse a large body of experiences (air quality plans as well as research projects) developed in Europe and to evaluate the detail with which each DPSIR block has been investigated. Moreover, the paper shows how the most recent scientific developments in the evaluation of the impacts and the social acceptance can be integrated into IAM systems.
The paper "Air quality as a contested social field in four European metropolitan areas: evidences and research hypothesis from SEFIRA FP7 Project", by Giardullo et al., analyses and compares the social drivers influencing air quality governance in four EU countries which may reduce the impacts of air quality policies. The paper points to the need of promoting an integrated approach as a strategy for the design of future emission reduction measures.
Finally, in "Modelling individual preferences for environmental policy drivers: Empirical evidence of Italian lifestyle changes using a latent class approach", Valeri et al. investigate the public preferences for the environmental policy drivers in Italy. The paper discusses how lifestyle-changes are perceived by the population and their crucial role in reducing premature deaths due to atmospheric pollution.
The first step providing a base for the SEFIRA research has been the collection of a range of past and potential future policies on air quality to provide the context for the socio-economic appraisal and discussion, and to provide some real-life examples of the policies which would benefit from a wider appraisal in socio-economic terms than simply a “traditional” cost-benefit analysis.
Within this activity, a large number of documents and information on the current EU Air Quality Policies have been analysed along with the national and regional state of the art on this topic. This resulted in the publication of two reports:
1. “Policies for Air Quality Management in the European Union”: This report describes the policy framework of the European Union that has enabled the significant decline in emissions and discussed additional policies that are currently proposed by the European Commission. It reviews the general approach to air quality management in Europe, responding to the physical and chemical features of pollution formation and transport in Europe. In addition it introduces the general policy framework of the European Union, and how different instruments at different governance levels are supposed to interact with each other. Finally it discusses critical pollution control issues for some key sectors and identifies the main deficiencies of the current institutional set-up and identifies the key implementation challenges (deliverable 2.1).
2. “Obstacles for further air pollution emission reductions in the EU Member States” It examines the key challenges faced by Member States for implementing the emission reductions laid out by the national emission ceilings that are proposed by the European Commission. It describes how the recent proposal for the Clean Air Policy package has been developed, identifies the key sectors that should deliver the additional emission reductions in each Member State, and discusses a range of challenges faced by Member States in the development of national emission ceilings. The report analyses a number of factors that were quoted by national governments as obstacles to more ambitious emission reduction policies in their countries (deliverable 2.2).
The SEFIRA analysis of links among Individuality, law, society and environmental policies have been based on the collection of evidence on the implementation of air quality policies and legislation at EU and national level and the understanding of the key elements which mark their failures and successes.
A review of the EU and national legislation was conducted in four main metropolitan areas: Milan, Warsaw, Malmo and Antwerp. Starting from July 2014, three focus groups in each of the metropolitan area reported above have been organised for a total of 11 focus groups completed. The focus groups have been preceded by interviews with 38 policy makers and relevant national and local stakeholders carried out by national working groups in each relevant country.
This activity produced three distinct reports on policy implementation, citizen perception and effectiveness of policies.
1. “Translating European air quality legislation and policies to the national regional and urban level: a social-analysis”. This study starts from the observation of non-compliance by many Member States, and the compliance of some. The focus is particularly on the effects of noncompliance on human health. The aim of this analysis is to identify the issues that have to be addressed in order to improve air quality in Europe, in particular on the urban scale. Four case studies have been selected namely: Antwerp (Belgium), Malmö (Sweden), Milan (Italy) and Warsaw (Poland). For each of these cases the translation of European legislation to the national, regional and urban level was studied on the basis of document analysis and interviews with key stakeholders. The analysis is complemented by the organisation of focus groups with citizens living in the respective cities and their surroundings with the aim of assessing the way citizens perceive and relate to these air quality policies (deliverable 3.1)
2. “The cases of air quality policies in Antwerp, Malmö, Milan and Warsaw in 2014”. The report contains a comprehensive analysis of the four case studies selected: Antwerp, Malmö, Milan and Warsaw. It addresses this question through an analysis of 36 semi-structured interviews with relevant stakeholders, which allowed an interpretation and a preliminary evaluation of the implementation process of the Air Quality Directive across the four case studies. Commonalities and differences between the policy management within the cities have been analysed. The financial crisis has been quoted in all the interviews as the socio-economic background where ecological policies are more difficult to sustain because companies and also citizens under financial stress would dump on the environment the costs of savings and budget cuts. This study evidenced the complexity in which strategies for air quality are entangled. Arguably, the lack of success in attaining EU requirements for the air quality by policy makers cannot be considered only as the outcome of the lack of awareness. Knowing which may be the best practices or choices could not be enough; the final outcome of a policy rather is the result of complex entanglements of social forces. Jurisdictional limits, social practices linked to the pollutants sources as well as economic interests may drive policy-makers to concentrate on emergencies and contingent issues as the example of several interventions put in place to overcome exceedance of air quality limit values, as in the case of Poland and Italy. Similarly, when asked to set up long-term programmes to improve air quality, policy-makers have to cope with the aforementioned complexity which may affect the outcomes of decision-making process. Our analysis singled out two main issues, mobility and heating, as key examples of the dense relationship between social constraints. Indeed, the analysis of our case studies further demonstrates that changes in the present production system, in the distribution and in mobility in daily life cannot be addressed using purely top-down or bottom-up approaches (deliverable 3,2).
3. “Citizen responses to urban air pollution: a focus group analysis“. Such analysis is based on the pilot research involving 11 focus group interviews with citizens affected by (or affecting) local air quality measures. In particular, the research focused on traffic-related air pollution. This is not only because traffic is one of the main sources of pollutants in urban environments, but also because many city dwellers are being confronted with policies related to traffic on a daily basis. This more narrow focus allowed us to move beyond the mere exchange of ‘opinions’ in the direction of a more in-depth understanding of reactions to air quality policies, which also include ‘experiences’. Focus groups allowed us to scan the diversity of possible opinions and reactions to the existing air quality situation and the measures intended to address air pollution, and also to try to arrive at in-depth insight into perceptions and behaviour with regard to air quality, as well as the reasons and motivations behind acquiescence, resistance or pro-activeness in relation to air quality policy measures and behaviour change. Furthermore, focus groups helped in gaining insight into the kind of group dynamics that generate social norms or expectations with respect to environmental issues. The overall goal was not only to acquire a better understanding of the perceptions and behaviours of individual persons in relation to air quality and related policies, but also to study social interactions and dynamics which arise when air quality becomes the topic of common action and debate. (deliverable 3.3)
The results of this activity were also presented in a scientific paper published on the Special Issue of Environmental Science & Policy. “Air quality from a social perspective in four European metropolitan areas: Research hypothesis and evidence from the SEFIRA project”,, by Giardullo et al., Environmental Science and Policy (doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2016.05.002). The paper analyses social constraints influencing air quality governance in Belgium, Italy, Poland and Sweden. Starting from study of implemented measures the paper marks out the structure of double-delegation in policy-making for air quality governance. Then, following a multi-level approach considering all the territorial level down to the urban scale, commonalities in the strategies which have been followed by policy-makers have been found. The -lack of- success in attaining EU requirements for the air quality cannot be considered only as the outcome of the −lack of- awareness of which may be the best practices or choices, rather as the result of complex entanglements of social forces. Indeed, one of the main outcomes of this explorative investigation has been the breakdown of such complexity into its social component in a comparative study.
The core activity of SEFIRA has been the development and the application of the Discrete Choice Modelling (DCM) technique to test the acceptability of air quality policies. DCMs have been traditionally used to examine the choice that consumers, households, firms, stakeholder groups and other agents make. In the SEFIRA analysis, each respondent has been asked to choose between different policies packages characterised by specific attributes (drivers) and attribute levels. The respondents’ choices are determined by the trade-off between the attributes of the alternatives. This methodology can provide European policy makers with a reliable forecasting tool to be used to identify and select air quality policies with information ex-ante regarding their acceptability on the basis of socio economic, social, cultural and geographical circumstances of a nation or group of people. Overall aims of this pilot study were to provide indications on: i) the applicability of DCMs to the problem of environmental policy acceptability; ii) how socio-economic variables are correlated to different air quality policies attributes; iii) the degree of acceptability of different attributes of the policy suggested in the areas that are analysed by the survey.
The first phase of this activity consisted in the development of the theoretical bases for the Discrete Choice Analysis (DCA) pilot experiment. The preparation of the DCA questionnaire and the pilot survey required a strong coordination effort between the partners and disciplines. The kind and level of attributes have been widely debated for about a year, with the aim of identifying the best possible interaction between the DCA pilot outputs and the GAINS model run by IIASA. This task has proved to be particularly challenging and the actual feasibility of the integration between GAINS and DCM results has resulted to be problematic. An activity planned beyond the end of the project is to test the feasibility of integration with Integration Assessment Models, other than GAINS, that also take into account behavioural changes.
The structure of the final questionnaire consisted of three mains sections:
I) The first part has been devoted to identify the respondent’s profile, collecting information regarding the socio-economic status of the respondent and of her/his family such as age, gender, education level, current employment, marital status, household composition and net family income. Mobility and eating habits are also investigated due to experimental design needs. Socio-economic information are used for both profiling the sample interviewed and detecting possible different tastes in the modelling process.
II) In the second part of the questionnaire four unlabelled choice experiments are presented to the respondents. Before asking people to make a compensatory evaluation among the two alternative options included in each choice task, an introductory section is shown. In particular, the context of environmental and air quality policies is described along with the specific definition of the key terms as well as the policy drivers (in technical term, attributes) characterizing the alternatives. Respondents are asked to compare the two alternatives and select the one evaluated the most acceptable (that provide the highest utility). The five policy drivers included in the final choice experiment are the following: 1. Cost of the measure, i.e. the annual cost you to be born as a consequence of the implementation of the environmental policy; 2. Required changes in mobility behaviour, i.e. the decrease required in the use of polluting means of transportation (car/motorcycle), compared to the current use of these vehicles; 3. Required changes in eating habits, i.e. the decrease required in the consumption of beef, pork, lamb and horse meat or of milk and dairy products, compared to the current consumption; 4. Reduction of premature deaths, i.e. the impact of the policy on the reduction of premature deaths caused by the presence of particulates and ozone; 5. Distribution of the measure costs, i.e. how the costs of the environmental measure must be distributed to the community.
III) In the last section, attitudinal data are also included. The consideration of latent factors linked to personal attitudes and motivations (such as environmental perception and awareness, social network, social trust, health awareness) is a plus of the pilot research that allowed us to better exploit individual heterogeneity.
Administering the questionnaire in different countries which are characterized by different socio-economic and political profiles has required several adjustments in particular with reference to specific questions (namely, income level and the ‘cost of the measure’ policy driver) to make them comparable across the seven countries). In particular, purchasing power parities were applied to estimate the amount of adjustment needed on the exchange rate between countries, in order to be equivalent to each currency's purchasing power.
16.000 European citizens have been interviewed using as administration technique the CAWI (Computer Assisted Web Interview), which allows the visualisation on a computer screen of the experiment scenarios presented to the respondents.
In 2015 the questionnaire has been submitted to 2300 respondents in each of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden and United Kingdom. The respondents have been distributed in rural and urban quotes of population calculated from the NUTS3 territorial classification (predominantly urban, predominantly rural, intermediate). The target population has been female and male individuals, over 18 years old, consumer of red meat and or milk and or dairy products, using car or motorcycle at least 4 times per month. According to the DCM literature, the CAWI methodology has been judged more appropriated for the kind of cognitive effort required to respondents, since they are asked to choose between two alternative policies for five times. The survey started in April 2015 after the analysis of the pre-test results and ended in July 2015. The complete database has been released (deliverable 4.3) and the description of the analysis is given in the report “Modelling Individual Preferences for Environmental Policy Drivers for 7 European countries” (deliverable 4.4). Interesting similarities and differences across and within countries have been found. For instance, for all the countries the annual cost of the policy, the decrease in pollution-related deaths, and the ‘polluters pay more’ principle to distribute cost within the community are the drivers with a high impact on the stated policy acceptability. On the other hand, the policy drivers that present differences across countries are those related to the changes in the mobility and eating habits. They have been found not significant for specific countries (Italy and Poland). However, the in-depth analysis on the Italian sample that exploits better preference heterogeneity demonstrated that there is an important share of the sample sensitive towards personal engagement in term of changes in the mobility and eating habits. The specific results of the analysis of the Italian sample have been described in a paper published in the Special Issue of Environmental Science and Policy: “Modelling individual preferences for environmental policy drivers: Empirical evidence of Italian lifestyle changes using a latent class approach”, by Valeri et al., Environmental Science & Policy, doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2016.05.019 whose main objective was to investigate the role played by selected policy drivers in determining policy preferences, complemented by elasticity and willingness to pay estimations. Preference heterogeneity and the role of socio-economic and attitudinal variables have been explored with a latent class model over 2400 respondents. The results allowed identifying the different role played by the policy drivers across the classes. It emerged that most of the respondents (43%) are particularly sensitive to the cost components. The remaining respondents instead show an important sensitivity towards personal engagement in term of changes in the mobility and eating habits (lifestyle-change sensitive respondents). Based on the modelling results, potential policies are simulated reporting respondents’ reaction to selected scenarios. It shows the crucial role played by reduction of premature deaths due to atmospheric pollution and measure cost.
For policy purposes DCMs might provide useful input to: i) design new policy-mixes based on the different combination of policy drivers’ levels; ii) estimate price sensitivity with willingness to pay measures and using these value also for Cost Benefit Analysis, iii) estimate the consumer surplus for welfare analysis; iv) create cost-value charts for each attribute which compare the perceived value of each benefit with the cost to deliver that benefit. When perceived value is higher than actual cost, you have identified an opportunity to add value to a product or to charge an elevated price for the benefit. Cost-value charts can be included with any conjoint project to give you a visual method of identifying opportunities and weaknesses and quantifying the relative value of each benefit tested; and to v) simulate the overall acceptability or preferences for specific environmental policies, conducting what-if scenario simulations.
In the SEFIRA DCM case study, the models’ output may be used to:
1) To create an ad-hoc Decision Support System (DSS) to allow the ex-ante evaluation and comparison of potential air quality policies in term of individuals’ preferences and acceptability.
2) To feed already existing tools and/or integrated assessment models for environmental, air quality and transport assessments.
Therefore, based on the SEFIRA results a DSS has been devised in order to allow the ex-ante evaluation and comparison of potential air quality policies in term of individuals’ preferences and acceptability. The DSS is called SEFIRA-Environmental Policy Preferences Evaluation, SEFIRA-EPPE, and the prototype version (v1.0) has been released (deliverable 4.5).
The final aim of the research efforts carried out within SEFIRA is the integration of the knowledge produced by the various activities performed by the interdisciplinary consortium. All the specific knowledge fields have been taken into account in order to highlight and strengthen the aspect of innovation and cooperation that can be established by and between the participants to the consortium. During all the duration of the project SEFIRA has provided specific multidisciplinary and integrated reports to the Air Quality revision and implementation processes and reports to the main stakeholder in order to facilitate their participation in the on going process. This process has involved both the consortium and the External Advisory Board.
Integration of different disciplines requires a common understanding of technical terms but also a multidisciplinary pool of knowledge about the different uses of terms and concepts by disciplines that are relevant in the policy making process. The growing complexity of technical and scientific background of environmental decision-making points out the importance of improving integration between disciplinary fields and the basic pool of knowledge both of researchers and policy makers at all levels. Therefore, the first phase of the integration activity has been characterised by the creation of a multidisciplinary glossary of air pollution and air policies meant to devise a multidisciplinary description of the most important terms and concepts in the air pollution policies field, in order to form a basis for the assessment of the socio-economic implications of these policies (deliverable 5. 3).
A further example of integration is given by the four SEFIRA Policy Briefs, and in particular the one disseminated on the 27th of October 2015 as an address in view of the vote of the European Parliament on the new National Emission Ceiling Directive (deliverable 5.7). It contains a section on issues around the (non-) implementation of the EU Air Quality Directive. Then a section on conflicts: air quality in Europe today is still cause of environmental conflicts over responsibility in emissions, pollution control, and appropriate actions for health and environment protection. This situation may hamper the effectiveness of policy outcomes but, if well managed, may also foster problem solving and policy innovation. Four fields representing relevant examples of conflicts have been identified on the base of the work done in the four case studies explored by SEFIRA: i) Coal burning in Eastern Europe; ii) Biomass and wood burning, iii) Changing agricultural practices; and iv) Traffic and urban socio-ecological transitions. The final part of the Policy Brief contains a summary of the results of the SEFIRA survey and their implication in determining the effectiveness of AQ policies.
The integrated approach has also been used in the presentation of the main SEFIRA outcomes at a debate hosted by the ENVI Committee at the European Parliament. Several SEFIRA scientists, representing the various knowledge fields have given a presentation on “Integrating knowledge from the atmospheric and socio-economic sciences in order to improve the design of air quality policies”.
The same transdisciplinary approach has been used in devising the agenda of the SEFIRA final conference “Air quality policies of the future: individual responses and social challenges” held in Bruxelles, hosted by the Committee of the regions, at the end of the project, and attended by 70 representatives from European Institutions, Regional and Local Governments, Universities, Research Institutes and Civil Society Organizations. During the first part of the conference (session Project’s Result), the results of the projects have been presented by SEFIRA scientists representing the various disciplines involved in the project activities, while the second part of the conference (session Conflicts are in the Air) was focused on a debate on environmental conflicts preceded by presentations from scientists, stakeholders and civil society representatives.
A more detailed analysis of such integration is presented in the “Scientific Integration Report” (deliverable 5.8). The paper is proposing also some policy guidelines that include the creation of at least one pilot plan of action in order to test at national level the findings of the SEFIRA projects and assure a follow up of the coordination activities and a potential enlargement of the number of institutions that will provide a more effective individually and socially oriented air quality policy measures. This report is planned to be published in form of scientific paper on a peer review journal by 2016.
Finally, SEFIRA aimed at implementing the most effective ways for disseminating the outcomes of the project work at three different levels of communication: the scientific and socio-economic interdisciplinary community, the relevant stakeholders and the general public.
The SEFIRA web portal (www.sefira-project.eu) has been the base of SEFIRA dissemination activities. It has been established at the very start of the project and it has been organised in thematic areas. All the partners have provided inputs for the continuous updating of the web portal. Through the web portal, the wider science, policy and stakeholder audience could find information on SEFIRA new findings and organised workshops and meetings. The web portal is also the repository of the scientific documents (reports, proceedings, papers) produced by SEFIRA.
At the same time SEFIRA has established its presence in the main social networks (Facebook and Twitter).
An important activity carried out to engage the civil society has been the organisation of decentralized stakeholder meetings in all the consortium countries. Such meetings have seen the involvement of the most relevant civil society organizations, as well as all of the relevant stakeholders at the national level. The decentralised stakeholder meetings have bee held in Antwerp - Belgium (October 2014), Warsaw - Poland (November 2014), Milan - Italy (November 2014), Malmo - Sweden (December 2014), London - UK (March 2015) and Vienna - Austria (February 2016). The interactive discussions have been based on scientific presentations given by SEFIRA scientists representing the various disciplines involved in the consortium.
SEFIRA also aimed at analysing a review of the main trends, discursive practices and social representations. The results of such analysis are contained in the report “Social perception of air quality” (deliverable 6.7). The report encompasses elements derived from approaches such as Public Understanding of Science (PUS) and Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) adopting a combination of different research technique and it is therefore oriented to explore a specific formulation of social perception. The analysis operationalizes the resonance and relevance of air quality among citizens in four European countries (Sweden, Poland, Belgium, Italy). Indeed, the document is focused on how and to which extent air quality is perceived as a problem by comparing data across time. Operatively, having been inspired by the Mixed-Method Research (MMR) framework, the report mixes different data sources joining different formulation of air quality as environmental issue. The main research question was if air quality is an issue for public opinion and, if so, to which extent. The answer can be affirmative: first there is a growing concern that has been easily evaluated quantitatively. But what it is more important is that the concern for air quality reached portion of the public that was not concerned by it in the past. Air pollution and more in general the debate around air quality is expanding. The 2013 turning point could have been triggered by the “Year of the Air” initiatives as well as by relevant publication about health consequences of long-term exposure to pollutants.
In order to improve the dissemination of the project at European level, the SEFIRA Project published a two-page editorial on the EU Research Journal edited by Publishing and Media LTD. The article entitled “A strong basis for environmental legislation” summarises the SEFIRA approach and the main project outcomes.
Finally, several presentations and publications (listed in the plan for disseminating knowledge) have been issued, addressed to the target recipients.
Overall, SEFIRA gained a high visibility in the specific scientific debate on air quality both on the side of Atmospheric Science and of Social Sciences for the Environment at the European level.
SEFIRA for the first time brought socio-economic methods and thinking into the area of air quality policy making in the EU. This has been requested by several stakeholders and the results of the SEFIRA project are had a significant impact, adding a necessary dimension to the policy assessments based on natural and economic sciences to date. The project enhanced the interdisciplinary knowledge and skills in the field of policy analysis and development. The novel coordination between various scientific and socio-economic disciplines benefit each other effectively in policy analysis and planning, and will ultimately result in more effective and robust policy making.
SEFIRA has coordinated skilled and dynamic groups of researchers in a consortium improving the cooperation between them and stimulating the integration of different disciplinary fields and tools for a common European policy objective.
The Environment area of researches benefit from this co-ordination mainly from four outcomes:
1) European networking between researchers, institutional stakeholders and civil society stakeholders with a wide spectrum of geographical distribution.
2) Production of methodological and thematic advance in knowledge in the field of policy assessment and improvement thanks to the transdisciplinary approach and a significant qualitative and quantitative pilot survey.
3) Support to the process of Air Quality Legislation review and implementation both at European and National and local level with the production of specific reports and documents.
4) Coordination with the two main on-going research projects in the air quality field, ACCENT-Plus and APPRAISAL and production of joint research outcomes.
One of the most relevant contributions of SEFIRA in a policy context has been the analysis, though the use of DCMs, of the database derived by the large survey that involved more than 16000 European citizens to test the acceptability of air quality policies across seven European countries.
For policy purposes DCMs might provide useful input to: i) design new policy-mixes based on the different combination of policy drivers’ levels; ii) estimate price sensitivity with willingness to pay measures and using these value also for Cost Benefit Analysis, iii) estimate the consumer surplus for welfare analysis; iv) create cost-value charts for each attribute which compare the perceived value of each benefit with the cost to deliver that benefit and to v) simulate the overall acceptability or preferences for specific environmental policies, conducting what-if scenario simulations.
The development of the ad-hoc Decision Support System will allow the ex-ante evaluation and comparison of potential air quality policies in term of individuals’ preferences and acceptability and will be used to feed already existing tools and/or integrated assessment models for environmental, air quality and transport assessments.
The design of more acceptable, and therefore more efficient, policy packages would lead to a further improvement of air quality in European. Air quality improvement will directly affect the quality of life of European citizens especially in urban environments, being the Impact of air quality on health and the environment well known and recognised. In addition, due to the increasing scientific evidence showing that air pollution and climate change policies must be integrated to achieve sustainable development and a low carbon society, improvement will be obtained also in term of greenhouse gases emission reduction.
In this context, a wider dissemination of information on air quality and better public awareness is crucial for the improvement of policy related actions, benefitting the health and safety of citizens.
The dissemination activities carried out by SEFIRA have targeted different interest groups:
The main communication tool used to disseminate SEFIRA research strategy and outcomes has been the publication on the scientific literature, as well as the communication at scientific conferences. During the 36 months of the project, four papers have been published and several presentations have been given at scientific conferences:
V. Sergi, P. Giardullo, Y. Kazepov, and M. Maione. Can Concern for Air Quality Improvement Increase the Acceptability of Climate Change Mitigation Policies?”, book chapter Climate Change and Health Improving Resilience and Reducing Risks, Walter Leal Filho, Ulisses M. Azeiteiro, Fatima Alves, Eds. Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.
Valeri E, Gatta V, Teobaldelli D, Polidori P, Barratt B, Fuzzi S, Kazepov Y, Sergi V, Williams M, Maione M. Modelling individual preferences for environmental policy drivers: Empirical evidence of Italian lifestyle changes using a latent class approach. Environmental Science & Policy. 2016 Jun 15.
Giardullo P, Sergi V, Carton W, Kenis A, Kesteloot C, Kazepov Y, Kobus D, Maione M, Skotak K, Fuzzi S, Pollini F. Air quality from a social perspective in four European metropolitan areas: Research hypothesis and evidence from the SEFIRA project. Environmental Science & Policy. 2016 Jun 2.
Guariso G, Maione M, Volta M. A decision framework for Integrated Assessment Modelling of air quality at regional and local scale. Environmental Science & Policy. 2016 May 21.
24/05/2016, Maione M., et al: Supporting decision-making processes through the analysis of the acceptability of AQ policy: results from the SEFIRA FP7 project, 45th Session, Task Force on Integrated Assessment Modelling (TFIAM), Lisbon
20/04/2016, Maione M., et al: The SEFIRA transdisciplinary approach, SEFIRA Final Symposium, Bruxelles- Committee of the Regions
20/04/2016, Loopmaan M., et al: Environmental policies and urban ecology: from individual behavior to political action, SEFIRA Final Symposium, Bruxelles- Committee of the Regions
20/04/2016, Amann M., et al: Challenges of air quality management in Europe and the
approach taken for the current policy proposal, SEFIRA Final Symposium, Bruxelles- Committee of the Regions
20/04/2016, Kazepov Y., et al: Environmental behaviour and air quality Preliminary results from the SEFIRA survey, SEFIRA Final Symposium, Bruxelles- Committee of the Regions
20/04/2016, Williams M., et al: Air Quality and Climate Change: how to coordinate efforts for a socio-ecological transition, SEFIRA Final Symposium, Bruxelles- Committee of the Regions
15/03/2016, Maione M., et al: Supporting decision-making processes through policy acceptability analysis: the case of AIR Quality policies, Milano - Air Quality Conference
11/05/2015, Maione M., et al.: Behavioural Change in IAM: the SEFIRA Project, APPRAISAL Final Conference, Bruxelles- Committee of the Regions
06/05/2014, Valeri E., et al.: Progress of the SEFIRA Project: Focus on the Discrete Choice Analysis Pilot, 43th meeting of the Task Force on Integrated Assessment Modelling (TFIAM) of the CLRTAP –Helsinki
19/11/2013, Maione M.,: SEFIRA Aims and DCM-GAINS integration, APPRAISAL Annual Conference, Bruxelles- Committee of the Regions
18/04/2013, Maione M., et al.: Aims and work plans of the SEFIRA Project, APPRAISAL 4th Tecnical Comittee Meeting – Barcelona
20/09/2013, Valeri E., et al.: Analysis of air quality policy acceptance of individuals: a discrete choice pilot survey within the sefira project , Accent-Plus Symposium 2013 - University of Urbino
Finally, the SEFIRA newsletters were specifically meant to make aware the scientific community as well as the stakeholder and policy makers, of the SEFIRA scientific findings and achievements.
SEFIRA has organised decentralised stakeholder in all the SEFIRA consortium countries. Such meetings have seen the involvement of the most relevant civil society organizations, as well as of the relevant stakeholders at the national/local level. The decentralised stakeholder meetings have bee held in Antwerp - Belgium (October 2014), Warsaw - Poland (November 2014), Milan - Italy (November 2014), Malmo - Sweden (December 2014), London - UK (March 2015) and Vienna - Austria (February 2016). The interactive discussions have been based on scientific presentations given by SEFIRA scientists representing the various disciplines involved in the consortium.
Presentations to the general public have been given as well on specific topics, i.e.
17/03/2016, Maione M.: Le politiche sulla qualità dell’aria viste dalla parte di chi respire, Milano - Cittadini per l'Aria
10/11/2014, Maione M.: SEFIRA Project e l'accettabilità della legislazione sulla Qualità dell'Aria, Brescia Green Week
20/09/2014, Maione M.: Siamo ciò che mangiamo, respiriamo ciò che coltiviamo, Parco Nord di Milano - Festival della Biodiversità
Interventions of SEFIRA scientists on the “Volkswagen diesel-gate” had a large media coverage, with several articles, radio and TV interviews released at the end of September 2015.
Most of the work performed within SEFIRA was specifically addressed to the policy makers. Therefore, many of the activities and initiatives listed above have also seen the involvement of the policy makers from the European to the local level.
The SEFIRA policy briefs, discussing important themes related to the design and implementation of the EU directive on Air Quality, represent one of the main activities in this direction.
The policy makers at the European level have been engaged through the debate hosted by the ENVI Committee at the European Parliament, where the SEFIRA scientists have given a presentation on “Integrating knowledge from the atmospheric and socio-economic sciences in order to improve the design of air quality policies”. EU MPs have also been actively involved in the SEFIRA final conference “Air quality policies of the future: individual responses and social challenges”, hosted by the Committee of the Regions in Bruxelles, and attended by 70 representatives non only from European Institutions, but also from Regional and Local Governments, Universities, Research Institutes and Civil Society Organizations.
In order to make the SEFIRA scientific outcomes more understandable SEFIRA, in collaboration with the Istituto Superiore di Industrie Artistiche (ISIA) has prepared an info graphic where the main results of the SEFIRA survey have been illustrated. The info graphic has been presented in form of leaflets and posters.
In order to improve the dissemination of the project at European level, the SEFIRA Project published a two-page editorial on the EU Research Journal edited by Publishing and Media LTD. The article entitled “A strong basis for environmental legislation” summarises the SEFIRA approach and the main project outcomes.
Overall, SEFIRA gained a high visibility in the specific scientific debate on air quality both on the side of Atmospheric Science and of Social Sciences for the Environment at the European level.
The detailed list of the various outreach activities is given in the plan for disseminating knowledge.
List of Websites:
Sefira Project Office at University of Urbino "Carlo Bo", DiSPeA, Piazza Rinascimento 6, 61029 Urbino Italy, Ph 0039 0722 303311
Sefira Coordinator, Prof. Michela Maione, University of Urbino "Carlo Bo", DiSPeA, Piazza Rinascimento 6, 61029 Urbino Italy, Ph 0039 0722 303314, mail email@example.com