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What do citizens want? More sufficiency and regulation

October 2, 2023

Climate assemblies are more likely to recommend policies that regulate consumption and production of products and services compared to existing government commitments. This is the intriguing finding by Jonas Lage and colleagues, recently published in the academic journal Energy Research and Social Science.

The study compares the proposals from national climate assemblies held across Europe with the policies adopted by governments in their National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs).

The authors are interested in the extent to which “sufficiency” policies are proposed. Such policies aim at reducing consumption and production of end-use products and services to achieve environmental sustainability while ensuring adequate social wellbeing for all people. Sufficiency policies are different from those that promote efficiency or renewable energy strategies, tending to focus primarily on social rather than technological innovation.

Examples of sufficiency policies proposed by climate assemblies include the prohibition of marketing of climate harmful and unhealthy products, prolonging the lifetime of electric appliances, discouraging air travel by introducing a frequent flyer tax or levy and the reduction of the standard work week to four days to reduce commuting trips.

The study finds that the share of sufficiency policies recommended by climate assemblies is consistently higher by a factor of three to six compared to those in NECPs.Similarly, assemblies propose regulatory policies more often than other instruments (e.g., economic, voluntary, education) and three times more than governments in their NECPs.

Summarising their findings, the authors argue that climate assemblies tend to be “more open towards innovative and potentially controversial topics”, recommending “a strong sufficiency-orientation rather than high-tech upscaling or geoengineering”. They conclude: “the recommendations made by the climate assemblies may be interpreted as a call for a regulatory turn in climate politics, where the state should set clearer, more sufficiency-oriented rules instead of relying on market-based interventions”.

Download a copy of Lage, Jonas, et al. “Citizens call for sufficiency and regulation – A comparison of European citizen assemblies and National Energy and Climate Plans”.

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