A relatively low-cost/no-cost climate change mitigation strategy involves behaviour change. Human consumption patterns, particularly in developed nations, are highly GHG intensive. In 2019, the average per capita GHG emissions in Canada were 14.2 tonnes CO2e, while other developed nations like Finland and the U.K. have average annual per capita emissions of 9.7 and 8.5 tonnes CO2e, respectively. The high GHG intensity of average Canadian lifestyles is largely driven by building energy consumption, transportation, and high carbon diets (e.g., high meat intake). From the products people purchase to the activities they undertake; human behaviour leaves a large carbon footprint. Many aspects of people’s lives at home carry forward into the workplace and represent opportunities for reducing GHG emissions.
As a strategy for climate change mitigation, behaviour change involves first changing the way people think about the energy they use, and the carbon emitted through everyday activities. From there, changes can be made in the way people use energy such as deliberate choices to purchase or do activities with lower GHG intensity. Education and awareness raising efforts are relatively low-cost actions that can help guide employees to lower emitting behaviours while at work. Changes in awareness can even influence human behaviours outside the workplace and at home. Many effective educational strategies focus on enhancing employee awareness of the energy decisions they make at the workplace and how that impacts organizational emissions. Other strategies can include changes in corporate policies that result in changes in company practices and reduce emissions. Such strategies can include remote working and changing corporate travel guidelines to reduce the emissions through commutes and air travel.
Through behaviour change, significant GHG emissions reductions can occur. An assessment by the European Union estimates that the implementation of moderate to thorough behaviour change practices could result in per capita emissions reductions of 6% to 16%. However, when considering behaviour change practices, it is important to consider the longevity of the desired behaviour change as a mitigation strategy. A recent study found that energy efficiency gains and GHG emissions reductions resulting from behaviour change can be lost through “rebounds” (people spend savings on other energy intensive purchases) or “spillovers” (people spend money on more energy intensive purchases after feeling that they have done their fair share). This means that organizations must keep in mind the longevity of the behaviour changes they are promoting to reduce their GHG emissions and should plan for continuous employee engagement to avoid rebounds or spillovers.
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Human behaviour leaves a large carbon footprint; many aspects of people’s lives at home carry forward into the workplace and represent opportunities for reducing GHG emissions. Behaviour change involves changing the way people think about the energy they use and using education and resources to empower them to make deliberate choices to purchase or do activities with lower GHG intensity. Engagement for low-carbon human behaviour should be continuous, genuine, and supported by company policies.
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To learn more about climate change mitigation, check out:
 Akenji, L., Bengtsson, M., Toivio, V., Lettenmeier, M., Fawcett, T., Parag, Y., Saheb, Y., Coote, A., Spangenberg, J.H., Capstick, S., Gore, T., Coscieme, L., Wackernagel, M., and Kenner, D. 2021. 1.5-Degree Lifestyles: Towards a Fari Consumption Space for All. Hot or Cool Institute, Berlin.
 Van de Ven, D.J., Gonzalez-Eugino, M., and Arto, I. 2018. The potential of behavioural change for climate change mitigation: a case study for the European Union. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. 23, 853-886. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-017-9763-y
 Sorrell, S., Gatersleben, B., and Druckman, A. 2020. The limits of energy sufficiency: a review of the evidence for rebound effects and negative spillovers from behavioural change. Energy Research & Social Science. 64. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2020.101439