Title: Can information save energy? A three country comparison of words and actions in participatory local climate protection projects

Authors: Georg Aichholzer; Ralf Cimander; Herbert Kubicek

Addresses: Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA), Austrian Academy of Sciences, Strohgasse 45 A-1030 Vienna, Austria ' ifib: Institute for Information Management Bremen, Am Fallturm 1 D-28359 Bremen, Germany ' ifib: Institute for Information Management Bremen, Am Fallturm 1 D-28359 Bremen, Germany

Abstract: The international comparative research project 'e2democracy' was aimed at assessing the potential of (e-)participation for fighting climate change in seven cities in Austria, Germany and Spain. Citizen panels collaborated with local governments on CO2 reduction including bi-monthly individual consumption monitoring and feedback of CO2 balances via carbon calculator for a period of up to two years. Following Thaler and Sunstein, the working hypothesis is that information about the impact of one's own behaviour as well as the competitive comparison with others encourages behavioural changes leading to CO2 reduction. Two major findings are: (1) the gap between declared commitments and actual participation is huge, and (2) the central hypothesis is only partly confirmed. Positive impacts among the participants (increased awareness of climate effects, reported changes of behaviour, improved individual CO2 balances by the majority) are not necessarily accompanied by reduced CO2 emissions on the collective level. Informed behaviour change has its limits.

Keywords: electronic participation; e-participation; online participation; citizen panels; carbon footprint; carbon calculator; eco-feedback; climate protection; sustainable consumption; behavioural change; awareness; sustainable citizenship; social practices; electronic governance; e-governance; impact assessment; local governance; cross-country comparison; sustainable development; sustainability; energy saving; climate change; Austria; Germany; Spain; CO2; carbon emissions; carbon dioxide; emissions reduction; consumption monitoring.

DOI: 10.1504/IJEG.2013.053379

International Journal of Electronic Governance, 2013 Vol.6 No.1, pp.66 - 85

Available online: 18 Apr 2013 *

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