Behavior: The next step towards pathways to sustainability

Some reports say that citizen behavior is paramount to climate change policies, possibly leading to a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse emissions when people will use more sustainable energy, engage more often in sustainable mobility, and reduce their consumption of meat and dairy. Spotlighting citizen behavior is much contested. Some critics argue that the impact of individual behavior is negligible compared to the system changes that are required to mitigate climate change. Moreover, critics worry that too much emphasis on individual behavior will conceal the responsibility of governments and private companies in leading the transition towards a sustainable society. Amongst scholars who endorse the critical role of citizen behavior, debate centers around the pressing question in what way people can be encouraged to change their behavior and prevent feelings of helplessness resulting from being overwhelmed by climate change.

This Sustainability Dialogue was organized by Sander Thomaes, Professor of Developmental Psychology, and Denise de Ridder, Professor of Social Psychology, with the aim to move beyond polarized positions in the discussion about behavior change vs system change. It was examined in what way citizen behavior may contribute to climate change policies. With Sanne Akerboom, Assistant Professor in Regulation and Governance of the Energy Transition; Rens van Tilburg, director of the Sustainable Finance Lab; and Detlef van Vuuren, Professor of Integrated Assessment of Global Environmental Change.

More on Pathways to Sustainability Dialogues can be found here.