Beyond the ABC (Attitude, Behavior, Choice) of Climate Change Policy: Conceptualising and Promoting Transitions in Social Practice

May 15, 2009 - 12:15pm

It is now widely agreed that the challenges of climate change are such that established patterns of consumption are unsustainable. In response, governments have sought to persuade people to improve the efficiency with which contemporary ways of life are maintained and to make green their brand of choice. In this talk I suggest that these efforts, routinely focused on changing individual attitudes and behaviours fail to capture the ordinary dynamics and interdependencies of everyday life. Other ideas are required to conceptualise and intervene on the scale required with respect to critical areas like those of mobility, comfort, and cleanliness. Social scientific theories of consumption, technology and practice have yet to take hold in the policy arena, but in this talk I want to illustrate their potential and their power to inform efforts to engender wide ranging transitions in routines and habits and in the environmental 'burdens' associated with them. I use a handful of practical examples (daily showering, resource intensive concepts of indoor comfort and London's congestion charging scheme) to show how social practices evolve and how governments are implicated in shaping ordinary routines and habits. By way of conclusion, I argue that it is important to go beyond the restricted policy vocabulary of 'ABC' (attitude, behaviour, choice) and that it is time to actively appropriate other letters of the alphabet: D, for dynamics and demand; I for infrastructure and institution; P for practice; R for routine and regime; S for systems and services, and T for transitions, tipping points and transformations. For more information about this seminar, please contact: JoAnne Lambert 510.486.4835, or send e-mail to JMLambert[at]

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