Two posts ago I examined how stopping profligate bread waste could reduce C02 emissions. Earlier in a comment to my post on climate change responsibility, Jordan had astutely noted that while consumers bear some responsibility in reducing emissions major corporations should also be held accountable. Today I will explore how assigning responsibility to both consumers and corporations is complimentary.

In my post on bread waste I proposed policies that would restrict how supermarket chains like Rewe or Tesco can sell bread. These policies are designed to raise overproduction costs and thereby reduce waste at the point of sale. Ultimately, however, they also constrain consumer choice.

I proposed this mix of policies because people do not like having their options limited, particularly in matters of what they eat. However, framing and associated narratives have a significant influence on constraint acceptance.

In 2020, during the first COVID-19 lockdown, I conducted research to examine how scenario framing of policy options would affect individual willingness to accept restrictions of personal freedom, including access to certain foodstuffs, in combating another pandemic – morbid obesity. I posited that when framed as a necessity for public healthcare system protection, respondents would opt against policies directly limiting the agency of obese individuals, choosing instead to restrict the actions of third parties who could tangentially affect obesity.

The initial results indicate clear support for my hypothesis. Respondents opted for policies such as “grocery stores should be restricted in aggressively promoting high sugar/high fat products” or “manufacturers should be required to reduce sugar/fat content in their products” as opposed to policies such as “the sale of sugary drinks to minors should be restricted” or “the sale of high sugar/high fat products to the morbidly obese should be restricted.”

Additionally, the more unspecific the goal of preventing overburdening to the public healthcare system was framed, the greater the support for the policy. With each additional degree of clarity in policy specification support declined.

I posit that there is good reason to believe that in ranking acceptability of climate changes policies that restrict personal consumption, people will also opt against direct restrictions and migrate towards policies which limit the agency of third parties. As acceptance is a key factor in forming effective policies, I believe that further research is warranted.

What types of policies are you willing to accept to reduce GHG emissions? Leave a comment.

Photo by Laura James from Pexels.

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