Enabling Conditions and Impediments to the Stabilisation and Mainstreaming of Low-Carbon Practices

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 15:15
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Daniel HAUSKNOST, Insitute of Social Ecology, Austria
Willi HAAS, Institute of Social Ecology, Alpen Adria Universitaet, Austria
Climate change mitigation is impeded, among other factors, by the so-called ‘value-action-gap’ in individual behaviour. Thus, social research is increasingly abandoning the individual and turning towards social practices as a more promising unit of analysis. Social practice theory marks a shift away from the analysis of individual behaviour and conscious choice of action towards routinized and interlinked social practices. Accordingly, low-carbon practices are alternative ways of doing things whose stable reproduction relies not so much on conscious individual choices, but on their routinisation as social phenomena. In order for such routinisation to be successful, certain conditions must be met: the material and immaterial elements of the social practice (e.g. infrastructure, competences, cultural norms) must be aligned and linked in such a way that the alternative behaviour becomes an integrated everyday routine. What, then, are the structural factors enabling or impairing the alignment of these elements and thus the stabilisation of a low-carbon practice? What role do institutional, political and legal framework conditions play in enabling or impairing the establishment of ‘alternative ways of doing things’ as social practices?

We analyse the emergence and stabilisation of low-carbon practices in two different types of community-based initiatives: eco-villages and low-carbon communities. We draw on six in-depth case studies in Germany and Austria, including interviews, visits and workshops. We focus on the different institutional, political and legal framework conditions of each type of initiative and on their role in enabling or impairing the development, stabilisation and potential mainstreaming of low-carbon practices. These framework conditions determine largely which practices can be stabilised and even mainstreamed and which are blocked. We expect to find characteristic differences between eco-villages and low carbon municipalities, from which we aim to derive lessons for climate policy beyond individual behaviour change.