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How to empower consumers to fight climate change from home

How to empower consumers to fight climate change from home
Fflur Lawton

Fflur Lawton | Smart Energy GB

3 min read Partner content

Many of us want to play our part in fighting climate change - but don't know the best course of action. Whilst regulation and infrastructure have their place, more emphasis must be placed on empowering consumer action.

Concern about climate change is high, as eight in ten people say they are either very or fairly concerned about climate change*. However, concern and awareness on their own are not enough to drive sustained behaviour change, and new research has revealed that nearly half of people in Britain are still unsure of what individual actions they can personally take to help tackle climate change.

A new report, Tackling Climate Change from Home: How to Turn Good Intentions into Positive Actions, written by The Behavioural Architects and commissioned by Smart Energy GB, explores how behavioural science can help engage consumers in climate-friendly behaviours around the home, and investigates the barriers to undertaking those behaviours.

It is clear that so far, not enough attention has been given to supporting, encouraging and communicating with households across the country to take action, and the report identifies five key motivators for adopting energy efficiency behaviours, with the strongest found to be cost saving.

The research also challenges commonly accepted assumptions about barriers to taking action. Being older and living with a disability or health issue, generally wasn’t a barrier to the ability or motivation to carry out energy efficiency behaviours. However, providing more information on ease of action, such as the amount of time required to install energy efficient technology, will be reassuring and encourage people to undertake more environmentally friendly steps.

The research also highlighted that different approaches are needed for different property types, with renting emerging as a significant obstacle to the uptake of energy efficiency behaviours. It is much harder to persuade people to get anything that requires installation, such as a smart thermostat or smart meter, because of the perceived – or actual – barrier of getting landlord permission.

Taking these findings into account, the report sets out a series of recommendations for individuals or organisations who are involved in talking to the public about climate change, or encouraging them to take action at home:

  1. Make sure that any communications reflect language already used by the public
  2. Avoid using the government’s net zero targets as a motivator
  3. Ensure that communications aren’t negative in tone
  4. Use emotional, rather than rational, framing
  5. Wherever possible communicate multiple benefits to carrying out a behaviour - number one on this list should be cost savings

While progress has been made to upgrade our energy system for net zero, a lot of the work to date has been done through regulation and infrastructure. For the next phase of the transition, consumer engagement and action will be critical. There is a need for the government and other organisations to focus on this challenge, remove barriers to the uptake of energy efficient actions and communicate clearly to the public on what they can do to make a difference. 

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Smart Energy GB is the consumer engagement campaign for the rollout of smart meters in Great Britain, and the organisation is currently overseeing one of the biggest carbon-saving consumer engagement campaigns of our generation. With over 25 million smart meters now installed, our experience is that clear and consistent messaging, informed by in-depth behavioural science, can help turn individuals’ good environmental intentions into tangible actions

If you would like further information about our campaign and how smart meters are essential for a smarter energy system, please email [email protected]

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