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Building a low-carbon, climate resilient future: Research and innovation in support of the European Green Deal (H2020-LC-GD-2020)

Specific Challenge:

All areas of the European Green Deal, from climate action to zero pollution, require considerable changes in societal practices and in the behaviour of individuals, communities, and public and private organisations. These changes concern, for example, mobility behaviour, minimising traffic-related emissions and energy/resource consumption, protecting or restoring biodiversity, etc. including changes achieved through collective and participatory processes or a sense of environmental citizenship and climate justice.

Several foci of behaviour and mind-set are at play in interconnected ways: concerns for: personal health and well-being; for the planet; for decent work; for fairness and solidarity, etc. Ways of combining individual, collective socio-economic and environmental benefits should be sought wherever possible.

Disadvantaged and vulnerable social groups and groups and communities most affected by the transition need special attention. Their existing practices, for example, may combine environmentally friendly, circular habits with practices that are detrimental to both their own health and to the environment (from dietary choices, mobility and travel behaviour to inappropriate use, reuse and disposing of materials), but to which they see no feasible alternatives. Similarly, differences of perception (in different regions of the EU, among different social groups, across genders and various age groups) of the urgency of the climate change and other environmental issues, on the most appropriate measures needed and hence also on the urgency of related behaviour change, need focused attention. Other categories of actors have to face challenging dilemmas, such as economic agents bearing major additional costs, adaptations or even phasing out of their activities due to Green Deal requirements. In such cases, individual change should be addressed in the context of the collective benefits and cost-sharing arrangements of the Green Deal and it should be associated to broader structural measures to support affected groups. Addressing these issues requires research and experimentation on behavioural, social and cultural change across Europe, founded on transdisciplinary expertise and strong ethical and methodological standards. Moreover, these actions should be accompanied with comparative research and feedback to ensure continuous monitoring and learning, foresee robust impact evaluation methods and take account of possible trade-offs, unintended consequences or rebound effects.Scope:

Actions should address behavioural change at individual and collective levels, including public and private organisations, as well as broader changes in social practices related to the European Green Deal. Actions should establish transnational and transdisciplinary networks of experts, researchers, practitioners and relevant civil society organisations on behavioural, social and cultural change. They should jointly analyse social practices and behavioural change processes, including enabling as well as inhibiting factors, share good practice, tools and resources and implement relevant experimentation on priority issues to deliver on the European Green Deal. They should build on existing experience, notably stemming from EU-funded projects.

Actions should include several experimental studies, each implemented in at least four Member States and/or Associated Countries. Specific topics for case studies should be co-decided with the European Commission services involved in implementing the European Green Deal. They should support major EU actions where such change is key, including – but not limited to – Horizon Europe Missions, in close cooperation with the respective mission boards, and other R&I initiatives.

Vulnerable and marginalised people, minorities and various age groups, including both youth and the older generation, as well as various skill and income groups and urban, peri-urban and rural areas, should be considered in analysis and included in experimentation, with methods and tools adapted to the target groups. Gendered issues should receive specific consideration. Change at the workplace and future of work related issues should also be addressed, including teleworking, as well as change in and by collective entities such as the behaviour of businesses and social partners and their shift towards sustainable business models, the behaviour of public services and other organisations – in the context of broader political, social and economic or financial dynamics, where relevant.

A balanced overall coverage of EU Member States and Associated Countries should be sought. National and local governments and administrations should be associated from an early stage, including, to the extent possible, links with similar initiatives at these levels and with their policy and regulatory actions. Actions should also build on bottom-up initiatives stemming from groups of citizens, notably from the younger generation, as well as from various communities and organisations, including social partners and for example those active in the social economy, and seek to expand the agency of individual people and communities.

Actions should design methodologies for each individual exercise, relying on comparative analysis of international best practice, including comprehensive impact evaluation and involving the people or groups concerned. Depending on their specific objectives, they may either ensure consistency across Member States/Associated Countries for transnational comparability, or select a range of different methodologies to compare their effectiveness.

All relevant factors of behaviour change should be considered. Actions should therefore propose a transdisciplinary approach to behavioural change, looking at system dynamics and integrating historical, cultural, societal, economic and psychological perspectives, as well as gender studies and intersectional research. For example, disciplines such as anthropology, cultural psychology, cultural studies, semiotics and sociology can shed light on cultural change as one of the crucial preconditions of behavioural change, whereas engaging social and economic psychology may help to establish a more nuanced concept of human behaviour itself. Inequalities related to climate change and the socio-ecological transition should also be considered, as well as the role of science communication, journalism and the media.

Broader institutional (legal, financial, economic) conditions that enable and facilitate behavioural change should be considered and should lead to policy and regulatory recommendations. Actions should address the feedback loops between behavioural change and the evolution of the broader context, including with regard to socio-economic resilience and stability. They should also consider the full impact of behavioural change, including trade-offs, side and rebound effects.

An advisory board should ensure the scientific soundness, ethical and unbiased character of the planned experiments and vet the methodologies and conditions of implementation of each individual exercise.

Actions should also study each individual exercise, assess and compare their results across the Member States/Associated Countries and provide feedback and recommendations.

Proposals should dedicate resources to engage in coordination and cooperation with the other projects funded under this topic and others of this area, since behavioural, social and cultural change are often directly linked with deliberation, engagement and activism. Such cooperation may encompass setting up a single advisory board per topic to ensure consistency across the projects.

In line with the Union’s strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation, international cooperation is encouraged.

To succeed, the European Green Deal requires substantial behavioural change at both individual and collective levels. Projects under this topic will enable such change through implementation research on the behavioural change of individuals, private corporations and/or the public sector across the EU. Consortia should choose a basket of qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure the impact of their work and are encouraged to make use of MoRRI indicators[1].

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 3 to 5 million would allow the specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.Expected Impact:

Successful projects are expected to contribute to specific impacts, including:

  • structurally enhanced research and innovation capacities in this area, through structured transdisciplinary expertise, research and practice networks of the highest ethical and methodological standards across Europe;
  • more effective and inclusive action on the social and behavioural aspects of the European Green Deal, by achieving a more nuanced view of mindset, incentive structures and social and behavioural change mechanisms, including enabling as well as inhibiting factors for various groups and communities, through the lens of transdisciplinary research that integrates historical, cultural, societal, economic and psychological perspectives;
  • behavioural change and long-term commitment, trust, social acceptance and buy-in from people, communities and organisations, through effective new strategies to induce this, including innovative recommendations and incentives that consider differences between EU regions and social groups e.g. in terms of urgency perceptions;
  • improved management, inter alia, of the uncertainty derived from climate change through bottom-up approaches;
  • greater societal resilience against climate change and environmental crises, and as well as contributions to effective just transitions;
  • changed behaviour at both individual and collective levels, among citizens, communities, businesses, workplace, decision makers and institutional actors;
  • in the longer-term, systemic change at the level of political and economic structures, culture and society and contribution to one or several of the Sustainable Development Goals[[