AuthorMichael P. Vandenbergh and Paul C. Stern
Page 87
I. Introduction
is chapter asks: why does household behavior mat-
ter for deep decarbonization, and how can laws, policies,
and programs that target behavior change be employed
to facilit ate deca rbonization? Indiv iduals and household s
can aect c arbon emissions in multiple ways through their
behavior as environmental activists, by oering support or
opposition to environmental public policies in their citizen
roles, by exerting inuence within orga nizations of which
they are a part, by making investment decisions based on
carbon considerations, and by acquiring and using energy
and carbon-emitting goods and services or meeting t heir
needs in ways that do not emit greenhouse gases. Each of
these roles can be critical for achieving deep decarboniz a-
tion. Our primary, although not exclusive, focus is on the
roles of indiv iduals and household s as consumers, bot h of
energy and of goods and serv ices that have carbon foot-
prints through their life cycles.1
e chapter explores the implications of insights about
behaviors a ecting indiv idual a nd household energy use,
particularly from the noneconomic social and behavioral
sciences,2 for legal and policy interventions intended to
achieve the goal of the Deep Deca rbonization Pathways
Project (DDPP)—the reduction of net U.S. greenhouse gas
1. See Paul C. Stern, Toward a Coherent eory of Environmentally Signicant
Behavior, 56 J. S. I 407, 407-24 (2000); Michael P. Vandenbergh &
Benjamin K. Sovacool, Individual Behaviour, the Social Sciences, and Climate
Change, in C C L, E E  E
L 92 (Daniel Farber & Marjan Peeters eds., Edward Elgar Pub. 2016);
omas Dietz et al., Household Action Can Provide a Behavioral Wedge to
Rapidly Reduce US Carbon Emissions, 106 P. N’ A. S. 1842,
1842-45 (2009).
2. Consumers are inuenced by the prices of the goods and services they may
acquire, but these are not the only important inuences, nor do consumers
process price information in quite the ways simple economic analyses might
expect. N R C, E U: T H D
(Paul C. Stern & Elliot Aronson eds., 1984); N R C,
I E D A (Paul C. Stern ed., 1984). See also
R H. T  C R. S, N (2d ed. 2009).
Chapter 3
by Michael P. Vandenbergh and Paul C. Stern
is chapter asks why household behavior matters for deep decarbonization, and how laws, policies, and pro-
grams that target behavior change can be employed to facilitate decarbonization. e pathways set forth in the
Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) reports all presume widespread public acceptance of new poli-
cies, as well as changes in household actions that directly aect carbon emissions, mainly via consumer adoption
of technologies that have lower greenhouse gas footprints. While none of the DDPP pathways relies on explicit
behavior change interventions to achieve emissions reductions, behavior change remains central to the project:
the demand for energy services and uptake and use of technologies that reduce carbon emissions, particularly
in the domains of energy eciency and renewable energy, require massive amounts of behavior change between
now and 2050. Because factors aecting individual and household behavior dier per behavioral type, interven-
tions need to be tailored to specic behaviors. It is also important to recognize that public and private initiatives
both play a role in driving the kinds of behavior change necessary to achieve deep decarbonization. e best
available research indicates that achieving the rates of adoption included in the DDPP pathways is indeed feasi-
ble; however, this will require more than policies that require change or make adoption nancially attrac tive. e
most realistic analysis of the potential for change must consider the technical potential for change, the behavioral
plasticity, and the policy plasticity (or feasibility) of adopting and implementing the best-known interventions.
Page 88 Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States
emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.3 We
examine the role that such behavior plays (explicitly and
implicitly) in the four DDPP pathways, and we explore
additional opportunities for behavioral interventions to
contribute to achieving deep decarbonization.
We should be clear at the outset about what we include
in the category of “behaviors a ecting individual and
household energ y use.” In short, we inc lude both the adop-
tion or uptak e of household technologies and equipment,
and the use and ma intenance of technolog ies and equip-
ment, in ways that aect emissions of greenhouse gases.
As elaborated elsewhere,4 seven specic classes of house-
hold behavior can aect carbon emissions. Some of these
involve changes in the use of household equipment that
reduce energy consumption by reducing energy services —
what is often called energ y conservation but is more appro-
priately called curtailment.5
ese include changing dai ly behaviors regarding heat-
ing and cooling levels, appliance a nd motor vehicle use, and
so on (“D”), and adjusting the water temperature in home
equipment (“A”). Others reduce consumption without cur-
tailing energy ser vices, through better equipment mainte-
nance (“M”); adoption of home weatherization and more
ecient heating and cooling equipment (“W”); shifting to
more energy-e cient motor vehic les and major household
equipment other than space conditioning (“E”); and adopt-
ing renewa ble energy technologie s for the hous ehold (“R”).
Households can also, given appropriate information, make
choices that reduce the life-cycle emissions (“L”) embodied
in the goods and services they purchase. Unless other wise
noted, when we refer to “behavior,” we mean individual a nd
household behavior of the above types.
e factors a ecting indi vidual and household behavior
dier per behavioral ty pe, as noted below. Also, the oppor-
tunities for behavior change var y with time scales. On an
immediate time scale, changes in usage of ex isting equip-
ment (D and A) may oer the most eective steps toward
3. J H. W  ., P  D D  
U S, U.S. 2050 R, V 2: P I 
D D   U S (Deep Decarbonization
Pathways Project & Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc., 2015), avail-
able at
[hereinafter DDPP P R]; J H. W  ., P
 D D   U S, U.S. 2050 R,
V 1: T R (Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project &
Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc., 2015), available at http://usddpp.
org/downloads/2014-technical-report.pdf [hereinafter DDPP T
R]. See also Alexander E. MacDonald et al., Future Cost-Competitive
Electricity Systems and eir Impact on US CO2 Emissions, 6 Nature Climate
Change 526, 526-31 (2016), abstract available at
4. Dietz et al., supra note 1; Kimberly S. Wolske & Paul C. Stern, Contri-
butions of Psychology to Limiting Climate Change: Opportunities Through
Consumer Behavior, in P  C C: H
P, I,  R (Susan Clayton & Christie
Manning eds., 2018).
5. Paul C. Stern & Gerald T. Gardner, Psychological Research and Energy Policy,
36 A. P 329, 329-42 (1981).
deep decarbonization. Over a decade or t wo, adoption and
use of lower emission equipment and acceptance of new
technologies and energy policies and programs c an often
make the greatest dierence. On the time scale of a gen-
eration or more, changes in lifestyles, social organization,
built infrastructure, and public acceptance of major policy
directions may be critical to achieving deep decarbon-
ization goals.6 Our focu s is on individual a nd household
behavior, but many social and behavioral science insights
are also important for understanding the behavior of cor-
porations, small businesses, government agencies, and
other organizations at these time scales.
Although the DDPP focuses on the emissions reduction
target for 2050, the carbon emissions pathway between
now and 2050 will have an important eect on the ability
to limit temperature increases to 2oC over pre-industrial
levels, the ultimate goal of deep deca rbonization. If U.S.
emissions are higher than expected between now and
2050, an 80% reduction in 2050 will be inadequate; if
they are lower than expected, there may be some play in
the timing or magnitude of the 2050 goal.7 As a result, we
also examine the role of near-term behavior change in the
DDPP modeling and how additional near-term behavior
change can acc elerate emissions reductions.
It is important to recognize that governments are not
the only organizations that c an drive the kinds of behavior
change necessar y to achieve deep decarbonization. Pub-
lic and private initiatives have played important roles in
energy behavior change in recent decades, and here we
examine the potential roles of both public and private gov-
ernance in achieving t he behavior changes that can con-
tribute to deep decarbonization. By private governance,
we mean the performance of traditionally governmental
functions (e.g., reducing negative externalities, promot-
ing creation or management of public goods) by private
organizations.8 Private governance occurs through many
of the same instruments as public governance, includ-
ing prescriptive rules, market-leveraging approaches, and
informational governance.9
6. See Paul C. Stern et al., Opportunities and Insights for Reducing Fossil Fuel
Consumption by Households and Organizations, 1 N E (2016),
abstract available at
7. In other words, the shape of the emissions curve over the next several de-
cades matters. It is only with reductions that begin in the near term that an
80% emissions reduction will suce, and even then, emissions will need
to be negative within the several decades after 2050 if 2°C is the goal. For
a discussion of the mitigation eorts necessary to achieve the 2°C goal, see
M P. V  J G, B P: T
P G R  C C ch.2 (2017).
8. In the past several decades, successful climate and energy behavior change
initiatives have been undertaken by governments at all levels, but also by
corporations, advocacy and civic groups, religious organizations, universi-
ties, hospitals, and other private organizations. See Michael P. Vandenbergh,
Private Environmental Governance, 99 C L. R. 129 (2013).
9. See Sarah E. Light & Eric W. Orts, Parallels in Public and Private Environ-
mental Governance, 5 M. J. E.  A. L. 1 (2015).

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