Are European Climate Change Awareness Campaigns Targeted Correctly to Encourage Sustainable Travel?

Are European Climate Change Awareness Campaigns Targeted Correctly to Encourage Sustainable Travel?


C Howarth, B Waterson, M McDonald, University of Southampton, UK


This paper identifies significant determinants of travel behaviour and perceived barriers to behaviour change which, when tailored to climate change awareness campaigns will significantly contribute to encouraging sustainable travel behaviour.


Successfully reducing transport?s substantial contribution to European CO2 emissions involves a combination of technological and behavioural measures. Awareness and concern alone do not lead to travel behaviour change and understanding of the reasons for this attitude-behaviour gap is required to ensure CO2 emissions targets are met. The EU?s ?You Control Climate Change? awareness campaign has allowed the deliverance of communication tools to EU nations informing the public of simple steps that can be made to reduce their environmental impacts. In spite of this, statistics show that travel behaviour remains unsustainable and, due to the perceived indispensable nature of personal travel, shifts to more sustainable practices remain a challenge even when awareness, concern and feelings of obligation are high.

This research involved the use of postal questionnaires and focus groups in the county of Hampshire, UK; the sample was found to be a representative sample of European attitudes on climate change according to EuroBarometer 2009 enabling the extrapolation of findings to the wider population. Results revealed that awareness of the causes of climate change is significantly determined by age with three age groups identified: those aged less than 25 years old and a group aged over 55 were found to be less likely to believe in human-induced climate change than those aged 25 to 54 years old. Four attitudinal traits were examined to identify the extent to which voluntary travel behaviour changes are possible: (i) perceived ability, (ii) perceived usefulness, (iii) willingness, and (iv) knowledge of how to change travel behaviour. Two clusters were identified where respondents were found to vary according to these: the first characterised by strong sustainable behaviour aspirations yet weak implementation, and the second was characterised by individuals projecting a strong feeling of environmental apathy and a lack of sustainable engagement.

Perceived barriers to behaviour change were identified and found to be dependent implicitly on perceived personal gains and losses as well as a stated lack of awareness (whether voluntary or not) on the availability and accessibility of options to change current travel behaviour. Habit, misperceptions of modal emissions, perceptions of environmental impacts of travel, cost, convenience and lack of incentives to change were all found to be significant determinants of sustainable attitudes. These results highlight the importance of targeting information to specific audiences and ensuring appropriate measures are described to ensure perceived barriers to change are overcome.

In order to alleviate the constrictive nature of these perceived behavioural barriers, targeted and tailored information on climate change was found to be an invaluable tool in delivering a message promoting travel behaviour change. Therefore it is crucial that climate change awareness campaigns include information on the environmental benefits of changing personal travel behaviour whilst simultaneously promoting a sense of environmental pride in order to cater to respondents attitudinal requirements.


Association for European Transport