A Zero Carbon Society Construction Essay

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Controversy and obscurity in the definition of the terms 'zero carbon' and 'carbon neutral' along with other terminology that implies a state of non existence of the main greenhouse gases is the core of the much of the attention given to the topic of zero carbon homes. The government's demands for all new housing to be zero carbon by 2016 has made way for changes in the way new homes are built and also called for the retrofitting existing stock. But the actual definition of the term used in context has faced great criticism and therefore policies to enforce such changes have been questioned. While new homes are expected to be built with zero-carbon standards, the problem is that no amount of retrofitting will make existing homes zero-carbon (www.guardian.co.uk). In addition it is estimated that 70% of existing housing will still be standing in 2050 (Hewitt & Tefler, 2007), by which it is proposed emissions from households should be reduced almost totally (Low Carbon Transition Plan). In order to meet the carbon emissions reduction target, the government's approach in confronting household carbon emissions is predominantly a financial one based on incentives and disincentives and this discussion aims to identify whether this is a viable choice of approach when dealing with behaviour, which as it has been acknowledged, sets forth barriers on many different levels.

This chapter reviews current and proposed government schemes and initiatives that are aimed at reducing household carbon emissions and predicts the possible outcomes by relating them to what has been discussed in previous chapter on predicting and changing behaviour. However it should be noted that this dissertation deals with decisions that affect behaviour outside of the home too. As such there are references to environmentally significant behaviour outside the home but for a more focused discussion on regulatory impacts on behaviour, carbon zero homes is the chosen typology. In particular, the purpose of this chapter is to identify if the schemes do in any way, inform and specifically point out to citizens about why such changes are being made and how this will affect their lifestyles. It aims to discover what influences the schemes to reduce household carbon emissions have on individual behaviour and whether the end result of such changes to lifestyles will in fact create an environmentally sustainable, zero-carbon society, considering what the conclusions drawn from literature on behaviour and environmental psychology in the previous chapter suggest. The schemes are usually based on incentive and disincentive methods, with incentives being a matter of choice for individuals to opt for. Although the physical environment of creating zero carbon homes has much to do with achieving the targets, the main concern here is predicting the behaviour towards these changes, from householders in particular, but attitudes and behaviour towards these changes from others such as professionals the construction industry and government initiatives is also relevant, as it highlights some of the wider challenges of achieving a state of "zero-carbon" or the expected carbon emissions targets even before householders' behaviour can be discussed. Such attitudes were mentioned in the introduction and are briefly expanded on here. Catto makes a point to highlight that while homebuilders have control over the physical fabric of home designs, such as heating, hot water and ventilation, they eventually lose control when it comes to energy consumption from household appliances (Catto,2007 ) as soon as the homeowners move in. In order to maintain carbon neutrality of the home, the main responsibility lies on the homeowner to drastically change their lifestyle for carbon zero standards. This part of the discussion aims to discover what methods of informing and measuring energy consumptions are provided for homeowners to help them lower household carbon emissions.

Statistics show that much of the carbon emissions from homes is due to heating, both of space and water with household electricity consumption accounting for less emissions (see chart 1 below). The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) claims in its quarterly review that carbon emissions from the domestic sector decreased by 5% between 2008 and 2009 (Energy Trends March2010, DECC) but also points out that this fall was due to a raise in overall temperatures in the subsequent year (Energy Trends, March 2010, DECC). Even if there is evidence of a reduction in household carbon emissions, this does not necessarily indicate that people are changing their way of life in order to lower their household energy consumptions.

As heating is the leading issue in reducing household carbon emissions, the majority of the efforts to reduce household emissions focus on heating and insulation. In the previous chapter, comfort was discussed as a form of a barrier that affects behaviour. Heating is one of the elements that affect an individual's comfort levels. Thus as this is known, it is expected that the schemes discussed here would reflect this in their approach to reduce carbon emissions from heating.

The Low Carbon Transition Plan published in 2007 sets out the targets for carbon emissions reductions and also what was needed to achieve these targets, which includes a 29% reduction in carbon emissions from household heating by 2020. Apart from stating the legislations to tackle this issue, where the current obstacles are is also recognised and listed:

'...Many of us are not aware of the options available, and we tend not to want to spend our time researching them to find out.' (Low Carbon Transition Plan, Chapter 4). In the previous chapter on behaviour, it was noted that lack of information available was a key barrier to behaviour change as well information being readily available for the individual to conveniently understand in the information and form intentions to act if they choose to. Having recognised this, The Low Carbon Transition Plan proposes that smart meters will take on a form of customer service and maximise energy saving. The governments ambitions regarding smart meters ensure that every household has a smart meter by 2020.

The fact that a change in behaviour is needed is also noted and the notion of 'working together as a community' is briefly suggested to confront the intangible consumption patterns. Nonetheless, there is some obscurity about how this will be achieved, and what type of communities this plan aims to target i.e. communities of place or interest.

Informing Households of Change

As discussed previously, the systematic way of life adopted by most individuals exists as a result of numerous social influences, contributing to a structure of society established. In Bergman's and others' terms this translates as a regime:

"A regime can be understood as a particular set of practices, rules and shared assumptions, which dominate the system and its actors ..." (Bergman et al, 2007). Bergman acknowledges that a regime constitutes a 'lock in' of patterns of behaviour through 'habits', 'prevailing norms' and 'regulation' and a change would be required for a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle to evolve within households, referring to a 'transition' in order for this to happen, 'which changes the structure of the societal system' (Bergman et. Al, 2007). Similarly, a transition from consumptive culture to an energy efficient culture is required. The key issue this discussion aims to explore is the idea that construction of carbon zero homes will foster a carbon zero attitude with people and a potential zero carbon society. Considering that the term itself is quite contradictory, is it possible to reach this level of efficiency? As state Parag and Darby, meeting demanding carbon reduction targets requires the Government to take actions that 'encapsulate interest' in emissions reductions (Parag, Darby, 2009). The current definition for a zero carbon home is one which has net carbon emissions over the course of a year equating to zero, after taking into account:

emissions from space heating, ventilation, hot water and fixed lighting

expected energy use from appliances

exports and imports of energy from the development (and directly connected energy installations) to and from centralised energy networks (Defintion of Zero Carbon Homes and Non- domestic Buildings Consultation, 2008)

The previous chapter on behaviour highlighted the importance of detailed information that is relevant to the issue at hand and directed towards the intended recipients. Researchers have found that often information distributed by the government initiatives tends to be addressing individuals as energy consumers and not as participants in an effort to create an environmentally sustainable society. As Gyberg and Palm (2009) illustrate, information is usually given to individuals with a perception that individuals have the responsibility to choose their options, and it is through these choices that 'the energy system will become more sustainable'. These options are mostly in the form of lower energy costs and lower environmental impact (Gyberg & Palm, 2007). It is apparent from the previous chapter however that individual are assumed to behave after a process of rational weighing up of options and choosing the option with high benefits and low losses. This is not entirely the case however as there are further deeply ingrained values and beliefs that individuals consider before acting on information. How does the government plan to inform people on a mass scale with detailed, comprehensible information of the changes they would need to make in order to establish a zero carbon lifestyle, which addresses the barriers to behaviour change? The Warm Homes, Greener Homes strategy set out in March 2010 highlights that in order to support the consumer in household energy management, web and telephone based information services will be provided, informing individuals of "how to reduce energy by making changes to behaviour, "eligibility of subsidies" and "alternative financing packages" (Warm Homes, Greener Homes, 2007). However there are such websites available to access today (e.g. The Energy Saving Trust, local government websites etc). The crucial point to address is as the Low Carbon Transition strategy suggested; people are unwilling to spend time researching alternatives for themselves. Also, the form in which information is given to individuals is criticisable, as Gyberg and Palm (2009) emphasize Laves' and Wengers' work,

'..there is no activity that is not situated'' and therefore it is important to ''emphasize on comprehensive understanding involving the whole person rather than 'receiving' a body of factual knowledge about the world; on activity in and with the world; and on the view that agent, activity, and the world mutually constitute each other.' (2009). It can be argued then, that face-to-face interaction is a better alternative in giving individuals energy conservation advice. The Warm Homes strategy acknowledges this and the need for more tailored information, proposing that a Home Energy Advisor would be best suited for the role of door to door advice when visiting homes for audits of energy savings and usage, referring to the visits as 'trigger points' (Warm Homes, Greener, homes, 2007). This method however relies on an infrequent encounter with the advisor, and unlike information received as a 'package', lacks the opportunity for householders to access information whenever they need to. The chapter on behaviour regarded the need for salience of information to act as prompts and ensure that appropriate behaviour is sustained. It seems that methods to change behaviour in the household are merely aimed at distributing information, which as mentioned in the previous chapter, has a weak correlation with behaviour change. It may invoke the right attitudes initially but not necessarily the right actions, because ultimately it is not enough to encourage behaviour change merely by information techniques. They must be coupled with other techniques of motivation and the right infrastructure and resources to facilitate the change.

There may also be some ambiguity as to what counts as energy efficient behaviour among householders too. To what extent does energy efficiency mean that carbon emissions of that particular action are abated, in order to follow a zero carbon lifestyle?

'In everyday life, ''efficiency'' quickly becomes a rather complex idea with choices and decisions that demand a lot of knowledge and insight about behaviour, habits, and different products.' (Gyberg and Palm, 2009), questioning where control and commitment lies. There is no real explanation as to what can count as energy efficient behaviour before the whole action is struck out as energy inefficient or how to identify methods of energy efficient behaviour in everyday life independently 'without repeated interventions' ,leading to question the durability of the change (De Young, 1993).

Changing Behaviour through Monetary Incentives and Disincentives

Incentives and disincentives take on different forms, and have various methods of effecting change. Positive motivation techniques include extrinsic motivation techniques that tend not to constrain choices, to make certain behaviour more appealing and provide social support (De Young, 1993). Coercive motivation techniques on the other hand limit choice as much as possible and are usually seen as punishing (De Young, 1993). The success of any motivation technique relies on the context in which it is used, however some such as monetary incentives and disincentives are frequently used as both positive motivation techniques (e.g, energy grants) and coercive motivation techniques (e.g. consumption heavy taxes) (De Young, 1993). The UK government has adopted these techniques in order to reduce carbon emissions, but not all have been proved to be popular, with a survey by the energy saving trust showing:

"Measures introduced so far are not popular: a third (or less) thinks that measures such as 'green' taxes (34%), road pricing (tolls and congestion)(30%) and carbon rationing (28%) are socially acceptable - or even desirable." (Green Barometer, )

Energy Efficiency Schemes and Policies

A variety of schemes are listed below which use such methods.

Local government websites and resources, as well as The Energy Saving Trust and non-governmental-organisations list the many options available for individuals to reduce carbon emissions and effective "save money" which include the Warm Front grant scheme. Applications for the grant rely on meeting eligibility criteria such as age, benefits and income, a restriction in itself, as well as others such as availability of renewable energy schemes in the area (www.directgov.uk ). It focuses on financial support for heating, insulation and installation of renewable energy technologies. (www.energysavingtrust.org.uk ). It is clear that this particular scheme is aimed at supporting movement towards energy efficient behaviour in the less affluent part of society, however, as the index of environmental issues set up by The Energy Saving Trust suggests, the group falls below average in terms of energy consumption (Green Barometer 3, EST), explaining that "Life is hard for this group and their focus is on day-to-day survival rather than environmental issues, consequently they show the lowest level of concern for the environment" (Green Barometer 3, EST). It seems as a compatible solution to financially support reduction of the groups' household emissions, but does little in the way of changing behaviour to encourage "concern for the environment". Individuals may still continue to behave in an environmentally irresponsible manner.

In an attempt to create widespread uptake of renewable energy technologies, the UK government has brought about schemes such as Feed-in-Tariffs (FITs) and a proposed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) as well as a Pay As You Save (PAYS) scheme for 'green' financing. Feed-in-Tariffs operate by offering payment for power generated by renewable energy technology and any excess power generated that is exported back to the grid, with differing tariffs for generation depending on the capacity of the renewable energy system, while export tariffs remain constant for all (www.fitariffs.co.uk ). The Renewable Heat Incentive is also proposed to work in a similar manner, by 'bridging the financial gap between the cost of conventional and renewable heat systems at all scales' (DECC, RHIFAQs).

The Warm Homes, Greener Homes Strategy outlines the ambitions for change which include eco upgrades in up to seven million homes by 2020. Eco-upgrades, the document states, are measures that 'go beyond the standard insulation measures to include solid wall insulation and/or micro-renewable energy generation'. The scheme also includes the installation of smart meters. However, specifically for cavity wall insulation many barriers are recognised and illustrated in the chart below:

Clearly, the predominant reason for hesitation in installing cavity wall insulation is the cost, while it seems a lack of awareness is the next major contributor.

Realising that there will be upfront costs of approximately £10,000 per household for this that is likely to discourage many people, the Strategy suggests a financial solution based on mitigating upfront costs of energy efficiency methods such as wall insulation and installation of micro-generation technology (www.energysavingtrust.org.uk ). The Pay As You Save scheme is known as a green finance system outlined in the Warm Homes, Greener Homes strategy which challenges the upfront costs of the eco-upgrade scheme. By allowing householders to pay back costs of significant installations through bill savings, it is proposed that this method will reduce the discouraging effect of upfront costs and will make the eco-upgrades scheme more appealing (Warm Homes, ). The government-published document also acknowledges that there is a tendency for people to move homes on an average of every twelve years and thus ties the costs to the home instead of the homeowner. 'Householders would then only be responsible for the repayments while benefitting from the measures.' (Warm Homes,)

Alongside many of the financial incentives for individuals mentioned above, there are further schemes as the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) which put pressure on energy companies to increase energy efficiency within the domestic sector.

It appears that economic instruments to reduce energy inefficiency in homes are the most favoured method by the Government. It assumes that financial situations impact energy efficient behaviour greatly, nevertheless the previous chapter on behaviour highlights many more socially embedded barriers to environmentally responsible behaviour. The strength of economic instruments in motivational behaviour has been discussed by Santopietro (1995) who brings to attention the various effects of monetary incentives and disincentives from a 'power' perspective. In essence he refers to condign power-which refers to 'making alternative behaviours sufficiently unpleasant or painful that these alternatives are not chosen' (Santopietro, 1995) and compensatory power- which refers to 'offering sufficient rewards for appropriate behaviour so that individuals are induced to comply.' (Santopietro, 1995). Disincentives such as taxes and levies for carbon emissions are demonstrations of condign power and incentives such as the FITs, RHIs and energy grants are demonstrations of compensatory power. Santopietro summarizes that while economists often rely on a combination of condign and compensatory power methods such as fiscal incentives/disincentives, environmentalists favour a more educational approach, persuading individuals to behave in a certain way because it is perceived as natural and proper (Santopietro, 1995). Of importance is the underlying reason behind this:

"Economists are concerned only with compliance: whether or not the individuals change their behavior in the desired manner. Environmentalists are seeking conversion: changing the underlying value system that guides behavior." (Santopietro, 1995)

Clearly then, based on Santopietro's discussion, the Government has opted to merely gain compliance and not bring about a change in underlying values, to establish a new culture of low carbon lifestyles. 'Monetary incentives and disincentives are targeted to specific activities. They are not aimed at changing the underlying value system of individuals, but rather only the relative prices of alternative actions' (Santopietro, 1995). From this it is possible to conclude that the concept of a zero carbon society, whose attitudes and actions reflect energy efficiency, energy conservation and reduced consumption-in homes as well as outside the home- to the extent that the net carbon emissions equate to zero over a year, is unlikely. Current legislation does little to tackle underlying values and address the issue of habits, which as discussed in the previous chapter exist as a result of routine behaviour and recurring events. Habits develop over time and enable individuals to perform an action in an automatic response (Verplanken and Wood, 2006). It can be said then, that if habits are developed over time, a zero carbon society may be achievable in the future, but effectively changing behaviour to more energy efficient behaviour may not be possible as soon as regulation sets in. This is strengthened further by what Brehm refers to as psychological reactance, as a possible consequence of regulation. A psychological reactance occurs when a person's freedom to behave in the way they choose to is threatened (for example, by imposing a ban on a particular behaviour) and therefore leads to a counterforce (Brehm, 1966), a negative reaction (Santopietro, 1995) . It is possible that regulation may have the opposite of the desired effect.

Since it has been established that regulation and policies can only affect behaviour change to a certain extent, and that behaviour itself is a manifestation of values, beliefs, norms, culture and habits etc brought about by social interaction, the concept of a strong social surrounding that facilitates these factors may be the mechanism through which a change in behaviour can occur. The next chapter expands on this, looking to the structure of a community and how a sense of community may enable behaviour change.