Power of 'social' in low-carbon innovation take-up
Climate change mitigation, green labels, renewable energy, clean technology... we are familiar with the words, but how much do we really know and what do we think about them? The EU-funded SILCI project is exploring the world of low-carbon innovations and how they spread through processes of social influence.
© promesaartstudio #244702080, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com
Making the transition to a fossil fuel-free future means upending traditions and thinking outside the box changing the way we produce and use energy, move around, eat, use land, build cities and integrate technology into our daily lives. It requires disruptive innovations to challenge prevailing technologies and practices, according to the EU-funded SILCI project.
While many such innovations have found their way into daily lives, such as car-free communities, car-sharing networks and passive energy buildings, penetration into broader society is relatively low. SILCI is aiming to change that. Its findings provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of long-term strategies and actionable policies for accelerating low-carbon transitions, while helping Europe meet international climate change and sustainable development commitments.
The vast majority (94 %) of Europeans think protecting the environment is important and 87 % are personally committed to the task, according to the latest Special Eurobarometer. Just over half rate climate change as the most important issue, followed by air pollution (46 %) and waste (40 %).
To mitigate climate change, green and clean innovations have to achieve mass-market appeal. Europe is leading the way towards a low-carbon future with targets for renewable energy, low-emission transport and a host of initiatives to clean up our cities, industries and individual behaviour. While policy incentives such as tax and regulation can help, it is new digital and social communication channels that stand the best chance of reaching this goal.
But we do not fully understand how the different mechanisms of social influence work for disruptive low-carbon innovations, and whether they can be harnessed to accelerate change. Through surveys and follow-up research, SILCI is working to bridge this knowledge gap and understand which attributes of disruptive low-carbon innovations for example, in waste-sorting, smart energy, sharing economy, green tech, etc. are most valued by actual and potential users.
By analysing social network structures, online activity and data about early adopters, the project team is keen to quantify the relative strength of social influence, and test strategies and actions for using it to further boost diffusion of low-carbon innovations.
The work, part of the European Research Councils Excellent Science programme, is also modelling the effects of social influence on global climate mitigation models.