Equity, technological innovation, and sustainable behavior in a low-carbon future

Sovacool, Benjamin K, Newell, Peter, Carley, Sanya and Fanzo, Jessica (2021) Equity, technological innovation, and sustainable behavior in a low-carbon future. Nature Human Behaviour. ISSN 2397-3374 (Accepted)

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Abstract

The world must ambitiously curtail greenhouse gas emissions to achieve climate stability. The literature often supposes that a low-carbon future will depend upon a mix of technological innovation—improving the performance of new technologies and systems—as well as more sustainable behaviors such as traveling less or reducing waste. To what extent are low carbon technologies, and their associated behaviors, currently equitable, and what are potential policy and research implications moving forward? In this Review, we examine how four innovations in technology and behavior—improved cookstoves and heating, battery electric vehicles, household solar panels, and food-sharing—create complications and force tradeoffs on different equity dimensions. We draw from these cases to discuss a typology of inequity cutting across demographic (e.g., gender, race, and class), spatial (e.g., urban/rural divides), interspecies (e.g., human and non-human), and temporal (e.g., future generations) vulnerabilities. Ultimately, the risk of inequity abounds in decarbonization pathways. Moreover, low-carbon innovations are not automatically just, equitable or even green. We show how such technologies and behaviors can both introduce new inequalities and reaffirm existing ones. We then discuss potential policy insights and leverage points to make future interventions more equitable and propose an integrated research agenda to supplement these policy efforts.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2021 08:14
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2021 08:15
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/102795

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