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2015-10-15 | project

The Role of Behavioural Interventions in Climate-Change Adaptation and Mitigation:

This project aims to use low-cost and scalable behavioral-economic interventions to facilitate pro-environmental behavioural change in the Western Cape of South Africa. Specifically, the objective is to induce a reduction in electricity and water consumption across a large sample of residential homes.

The project is being run as a collaboration between researchers from UCT, Cicero and the University of Stellenbosch; as well as stakeholders from various local municipalities dealing with utilities and service delivery (specifically energy and water use). 

In order to reduce usage, this project will leverage the different behavioral interventions that have been shown to successfully promote pro-environmental behavioral change in applications to electricity and water consumption. Specifically, the study will involve a fullscale randomized control trial using a sample of 300 000+ households from different income groups. The experiment will be randomized at the household level with different households being randomly allocated into treatment (receiving the intervention) and control (not recieving the intervention) groups.

The treatments are aimed at increasing communities’ awareness around climate change, resource scarcity and financial costs of consumption; and, in this context, the overall aim of the proposed research is to determine the extent to which the frequency, salience, framing and method of information provision are important determinants for pro-environmental behavioural change. With regard to framing, we will investigate the role of loss aversion and social comparisons in leveraging behavioral change. In terms of method of communication, we will examine the role of technology, for example sms, email and smart metering, in facilitating behavioral change.

There are two main outcomes associated with this project. This first is obviously measuring a reduction in electricity and water consumption within the study site. More broadly, a major aim of the research is to extend the existing literature in this area by studying the impact of different framings on changes in behavioral outcomes. The second outcome is that of “capacity building” within local municipalities. Specifically, a key component of this project is building capacity at local government level so that, once the researchers cease to be involved, local government officials can continue the roll-out of the campaign and modify the interventions where necessary.