Periodic Report Summary 1 - GLAMURS (Green Lifestyles, Alternative Models and Upscaling Regional Sustainability)
During the last decades accumulating scientific evidence has shown that our patterns of intensive resource use together with our GHG emissions are leading to increasing resource scarcity, loss of biodiversity and climate change with its numerous and disastrous effects. Existing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production in the affluent world are responsible for these complex and connected problems, and finding the appropriate ways for steering change in the right direction has become a priority for European citizens and policy-makers in the last years. The reports of many international bodies in charge of investigating and monitoring the effects of climate change on multiple domains of life have raised the alarm about the quick need for concerted, collaborative and coordinated action among multiple social actors across the globe. In spite of this, and of the incontestable advances in promoting more sustainable ways of consuming and producing, we are still far from achieving the objectives of decoupling growth from intensive resource use, of achieving transition to a low-carbon society and of living fully sustainable lifestyles.
Furthermore, the recent economic crisis has led to a situation of deep recession in many parts of Europe. It indicated a need for a profound reflection on our economic institutions, business models and governance designs, based on sound and nuanced analyses of economic growth models within the context of increasing population, and increased global affluence with millions joining the middle class, which have led to lifestyles that rely on intensive consumption and put considerable pressure on the environment. This situation has signaled the need for an analysis of the opportunities for, and obstacles to, changing lifestyles and economies in a direction that is smart, sustainable and inclusive, captured in the objectives stipulated in the Europe 2020 Strategy.
These two developments have created a context in which the need for defining, testing and implementing new (sustainable) ways of living and new (sustainable) systems of consumption and production has become more pressing. In a world in which other regions possess the majority of raw materials, the European Union is confronted with the challenge of becoming a “knowledge-based, resource efficient and low-carbon economy”, while at the same time “having the capacity to improve human wellbeing, provide decent jobs, reduce inequalities, tackle poverty and preserve the natural environment” ( SSH.2013.2.1-1 call).
Within this context, the overall aim of GLAMURS (Green Lifestyles, Alternative Models and Upscaling Regional Sustainability) is to develop a theoretically-based and empirically-grounded understanding of the main obstacles and prospects for transitions to sustainable lifestyles and a green economy in Europe as well as of the most effective means to support and speed up these transitions in Europe. It will result in the development, testing and assessing of several integrated pathways for transitions to a low-carbon Europe. These pathways will describe transition stages for multiple domains and social actors, tipping points and feedback loops among transitions stages and levels, and integrated policy packages that would ensure the implementation of cost-effective and socially-empowering mechanisms for transition to sustainable lifestyles and a green economy. GLAMURS will explore the complex interactions and links among economic, social, cultural, political and technological factors influencing sustainable lifestyles and transformations to a green economy across societal levels (from individual to social, and from micro- to macro-economic levels), it will develop and evaluate comprehensive models of lifestyle change at a European level in key sustainability domains, and will provide assessments of these models in terms of economic and environmental effects, with a view to providing recommendations on the best governance designs and policy mixes for achieving a sufficiently-fast paced transition in Europe in line with the objectives established in the Europe 2020 strategy and the Resource Efficiency Flagship Initiative. It will also develop and assess forward-looking scenarios for transitions through a combination of expert and stakeholder input. Finally, it will develop an integrated framework for knowledge co-production and integration that will allow for the development of practically-useful knowledge, regional capacity building and the creation of spaces for interactions of citizens, business, and government actors in developing representative visions for transitions.
The specific objectives of GLAMURS are:
a. To develop integrated models of sustainable lifestyles and lifestyle change, through an investigation of the interactions among institutional, political, economic, social and technological factors influencing patterns of time-use, associated patterns of consumption and trade-offs between them;
b. To identify and analyze existing patterns of lifestyles across culturally- politically-, socially- and economically diverse regions of Europe and to assess alternative initiatives for sustainable living, moving, consuming and producing in terms of their motivations, obstacles and prospects for their up-scaling, and effectiveness in economic, environmental and individual and community wellbeing.
c. Assessing the environmental impact of present and future lifestyles through environmentally sound indicators and develop adequate tools to inform individual consumer, business, and policy-making decisions on lifestyle choices.
d. Developing, testing and evaluating integrated models of transitions to sustainable lifestyles and a green economy through the assessment of various scenarios of lifestyle change, combinations of economic/technological structures and business models, and governance designs and policy mixes for each stage of transition.
e. Testing and refining micro and macro-economic models of transitions to a sustainable society, with the identification of transition stages, key policy developments and tipping points. Also identify feedback loops among different categories of factors and between levels.
f. Identify and test key factors and processes of influence among social, economic, political, environmental and technological factors that would thus lead to the societal spread and up-scaling of sustainable lifestyle patterns and supporting systems of consumption and production.
g. Assess the political effects of the evolution of lifestyles in Europe, and design and test policy packages that would support alternative pathways to sustainable lifestyles and a green economy.
h. Identifying the macro-economic dynamics of societal developments toward sustainable lifestyles, as well as feedbacks and interaction effects, under different policy scenarios.
i. Identifying the patterns of interaction among relevant societal actors both at the present moment and testing alternatives that would support transition to a low-carbon, sustainable society with a green economy.
The objectives will be reached by:
• Integrating theory on the complex relationships between institutional, social, economic, political, technological and environmental determinants of lifestyles and lifestyle change,
• Quantifying relationships and developing models of lifestyle change that consider different pathways to achieving transition (initially developing in niches, then becoming regimes and landscapes, as defined by theories on transition), and
• Testing models of transition through a combination of empirical research and simulation approaches. Simulations will include: micro- and macro-economic models and interactions between them, as well as agent-based models. The models would test different pathways to sustainable lifestyles and a green economy through different approaches to policy, by defining, testing and evaluating the feasibility and costs of different governance designs and policy mixes.
So far, the project has undertaken significant work on identifying areas for theory redesign and has advanced in the development of theoretical frameworks that could more adequately explain and represent the conditions needed for a large-scale adoption of sustainable lifestyles and a set of transition trajectories to sustainable economic models. Also, the project has advanced considerably in the integration of disparate theoretical frameworks to be found in psychology, economics and policy sciences, has carried out first empirical explorations into the relationships between patterns of time-use, wellbeing and determinants of sustainable lifestyle choices, and has formalized theories into a set of economic, agent-based and environmental impact assessment models that will be used to test different theories of lifestyle change and a diverse range of policy interventions targeting complex societal changes. The following tasks summarize the development of work in the project to this date:
- Lifestyles have been reconceptualised as patterns of time use, which take place in different locations and have associated consumption patterns and the implications for empirical research and modelling from this reconceptualization have been drawn;
- A systematic review of the psychological literature on sustainable lifestyle determinants has led to the adoption of a dual-process account to explain decision-making processes that are relevant from a sustainability perspective;
- Work has been carried out to unpack fixed preferences in traditional micro-economic models, leading to more realistic models of lifestyle preferences change for sustainability. This has led to the formulation of a set of models which test different individual and social processes that influence the adoption (or lack thereof) of sustainable lifestyles, at different rates and speeds. An example of a model for which work has been advanced significantly is the DC Model II ‘Being green and going green: multiple equilibria and social tipping points´. This model introduces social influence processes in decision-making, whereby the greater the proportion of the population consuming the sustainable variety the greater the utility of the agent. Depending on the value of this social influence parameter, we can identify various scenarios: When social influence is low there is a single stable equilibrium where different choices can coexist in any relative size. For instance, the population can split equally between the sustainable and the unsustainable variety. When social influence is high there are multiple equilibria. Depending on the initial fraction of agents choosing a particular variety either the population converges to a situation where only the sustainable option is chosen or an alternative case where only the unsustainable option is chosen. With intermediate levels of social influence, the scenario is more complicate, in that there can be three stable equilibria: only sustainable consumption; only unsustainable consumption or a mixed equilibrium where both sustainable and unsustainable choices are made within the population of agents.
- Psychological approaches to intrapersonal conflicts have been brought into theories of societal change. By zooming into intrapersonal conflicts related to sustainability-relevant choices, we are able to start proposing new governance approaches to deal with them and support individual and collective adoption of sustainable lifestyle patterns. In the draft framework, available now, we argue that environmental governance approaches and theories (including transition management) give insufficient consideration to the complex psychological dimension of individual behaviour and (intentional) behavioural change. A widespread phenomenon within this dimension that has so far received relatively little attention is intrapersonal sustainability-related conflicts. Such conflicts may arise when people are aware that different actions have different social and environmental effects, but taking a decision for the more sustainable option may not be evident for various reasons (e.g. due to conflicting attitudes, values or knowledge).
- Empirical research has been carried out on the relationships between patterns of time-use, wellbeing and sustainable lifestyle choices; comparing regular lifestyles in seven regions with sustainable lifestyles adopted by members of initiatives in six lifestyle domains: work-leisure balance, status and use of homes, energy use in homes, food consumption, mobility, and the consumption of manufactured products. Initial results reveal the important role of life goals, societal values around materialistic versus self-transcendent lifestyles, and the importance of a time-use approach to understand mechanisms for transitions to sustainable societies in Europe. Research also points out to the most important determinants of change, such as concerns with wellbeing, desires for personal autonomy and identities constructed around a more sustainable lifestyle, social norms and social influence processes more broadly, and the entrenched obstacles that hinder smoother and faster transitions to sustainability.
- An ontology for the mapping of knowledge co-production processes and the monitoring of the process through which we come to know what we need as a society to support transitions to sustainable lifestyles and a green economy has been developed and is constantly being updated. Knowledge co-production actions have been undertaken to bring in the views and concerns of a wide range of stakeholders, including policy-makers, sustainability initiatives members and the wider scientific community.
- Working on a macro-economic level, three approaches that offer complementary views on the interaction between technology shifts and lifestyle shifts have been identified. These approaches provide the tools to analyze the macroeconomic impact of lifestyle choices. The three approaches are a “time-pressure driven change” approach, a “macroeconomic resilience policy” approach and a “socially-imbedded growth” approach. In the “time-pressure driven change” approach, we focus on how time use of households interacts with production and technology. In our “Macroeconomic Resilience policy approach”, we document how in the face of climate change problems and other non-marginal threats to sustainability, different agents adapt their lifestyle and what are the implications for the feasibility, desirability and speed of transition to sustainable lifestyle. In particular we study to what degree we can expect private responses to uncertainty and to what are the optimal responses to uncertainty. The response is in terms of investment and adaptation: agents anticipate problems and adapt. However, this response is likely to be suboptimal due to externalities. Policy is needed for an optimal response. In our “socially-embedded growth view” we document and analyze how social factors play a role in consumption decisions and how they impact the sustainability of lifestyles. The fact that social rather than purely private preferences affect economic decisions implies that the pattern of transitions is not purely a technical issue but also a social issue. The following mechanisms are identified as important: 1. Relative (or “status”) consumption (national and international), 2. Transmission of preferences, 3. Peer pressure and peer selection effects, niches and “leading by example” effects.
- Agent-based models (ABM) are being used as tools to understand non-equilibrium dynamics and the effects of different policy strategies to promote sustainable lifestyle changes. An ABM transport model for Aberdeen City and Shire has been developed early in the project We have then used it to study the impact of policies such as flexible working hours and a new bypass on the environment and work-life balance of local residents. Preliminary results from the Agent-based modelling exercise show that both a flexitime scheme and the new bypass will effectively reduce average daily commute time. Introducing a 30-minute flexitime range will reduce daily commute time by 6.5 minutes on average. Increasing the flexitime range by a further 30 minutes will produce a much smaller saving in commute time. The new bypass will also reduce daily commute time, but only by one minute on average. As for environmental impact, introducing a 30-minute flexitime range will decrease CO2 emissions by 7%. Not only that, it also flattens the peak emission at rush hour. The bypass, on the other hand, will increase CO2 emissions by roughly 2%.
- A series of methods for estimating the environmental footprint of different lifestyle choices and consumption categories are under development in the project. Advances so far have led to interesting results in terms of the regional relevance of certain lifestyle changes. One lesson that has already been extracted is that, in order to reduce carbon footprints, efforts focusing on mobility should be very effective, while to reduce land, water and material footprints, efforts focusing on food consumption have the highest potential to result in easy reductions.
The project will develop integrated models of lifestyle and economic transitions toward sustainability, by combining innovative theoretical integration on individual, social and contextual factors influencing lifestyles and economic behaviors, with state of the art modeling approaches that will identify and test transition stages, tipping points at which strategic policy mixes are needed, relevant trade-offs and potentially negative effects at micro- and macro-scales; and empirically-grounded insights at a regional level on both present and future lifestyles and alternative consumption and production systems, supported by environmental impact assessments which will create learning and significant feedback contexts for consumers, business actors and policy-makers.
Together, the multiple levels of the project will provide various fully-fledged transition pathways to sustainable lifestyles and a green economy, within the context of long-term demographic, labor and technological trends. It will also provide recommendations for governance designs and policy mixes in the six domains of study of the project, at significant transition stages and tipping points and by accounting for relevant synergies and rebound effects. The Roadmap within the Resource Efficient Europe flagship has signaled that building a resource-efficient Europe can only be achieved with such a synergetic policy mix and by addressing trade-offs between different areas and policies. The project will do so by addressing interfaces among policy domains, as well as by addressing the connections between consumers´ lifestyles and the economic side of consumption and production systems. It will thus further advance the reduction targets established in the Europe 2020 strategy.
The Resource Flagship Initiative also underlines that investing early in the low carbon economy would stimulate gradual change in it and create new jobs in the short- and medium-term. In order for the low-carbon economy to attract investments, it is of fundamental importance to boost consumer demand for low-carbon lifestyle choices that would stimulate sustainable offers on the supply-side. GLAMURS will offer tested recommendations for policy mixes that can boost such demand, as well as assessments of large-scale changes on economic and environmental indicators. It will also provide an analysis of labor effects of changes, within the context of long-term trends in Europe, by analyzing the effects of radical changes in lifestyles on the global economy, and of adaptation and policy effects on business models and economic growth, and by providing indications on the areas in which job creation is more likely to happen.
The development of European policies that are context-sensitive and that are efficient in streamlining efforts to achieve the transition to a low-carbon Europe is only possible if we have an adequate understanding of: a) the barriers to and drivers of successful interactions among key actors at different levels and b) the policy mechanisms through which we can maximize prospects and reduce obstacles under different national contexts. In order to reach such an understanding, GLAMURS ensures that knowledge is co-produced by involving relevant stakeholders from early stages of the research and it will involve stakeholders at local, regional and European levels, thus also enabling commitment to low-carbon objectives and further acceptance of policy recommendations.
GLAMURS contributes to the realisation of sustainable futures across Europe by establishing and maintaining strong connections between each of the different stakeholder communities involved in the ‘future creation’ process. The EU 2050 Roadmaps (Energy, Resource Efficiency, Low Carbon, Transport) all note that understanding future social, technological and behavioural changes is essential in terms of creating an evidence platform upon which European and National policies in the transition towards 2050 will be based. The “EU Sustainable Lifestyles Roadmap and Action Plan 2050 Roadmap” points out that sustainable lifestyles need to be understood in terms of different levels of context, ranging from the immediate (e.g. home or work) context of individual person through to the broader socio-cultural context underpinning European and national policies. The sustainable lifestyles roadmap stresses the importance of eliminating barriers and strengthening four key enablers in transitioning to sustainable lifestyles. These headline enabling domains are described in the roadmap as:
- Economy and monetary system
- Social Innovation
- Behaviour Change
The GLAMURS project addresses each of these four key enablers through its research strategy, both at the regional and at a European level. The focus on multiple scales is intrinsic to the approach taken. The need to understand sustainable futures at the European scale is predicated on the assumption that environmental problems do not respect political boundaries, and therefore sustainable solutions are required to cut across national boundaries. It is only with knowledge of the similarities and differences between lifestyle dynamics, social contexts and policy climates across extra-national regions like Europe, that scenarios for sustainable futures can be truly imagined. By adopting an interdisciplinary approach which focuses on transition pathways, lifestyle dynamics, alternative systems of production and consumption, and policy mixes at different levels of scale, GLAMURS will advance the knowledge base that underpins the formulation and implementation of relevant policies to support inclusive and sustainable growth and societies in Europe and beyond.
The research framework has been designed to enable alignment with stakeholder needs. The decision to ensure that integration was carried out throughout the duration of the project, rather than simply providing a synthesis function at the end of the project is important here. In particular, the integration work not only allows for the integration of wider stakeholder views – it requires it. At the local level, stakeholder and expert input is required for the scenario development and to provide input into the environmental assessment and modelling components of the project. The ontology development workshops will provide an additional interface between the scientific and the different stakeholder communities at the local, national and European level.
The assemblage of relevant communities, stakeholders, and practitioners in research and innovation within the GLAMURS project will be ideally placed to partake in the knowledge-construction journey that is integral to this work, and to the reinforcement of solutions and policies that stimulate the transition to a sustainable society in line with the goals of Europe 2020 Strategy and beyond. As well as the shared tools and knowledge delivered directly from the GLAMURS project, we fully expect the project to leave a positive legacy at the local, national and European level, and will ensure that project dissemination activities are carried out in such a way to enable future assemblages can build on the results of this project.
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