Consumer Choice and Technological Efficiency

While GHG mitigation potentials in production systems have been studied before, the potential for changes in demand through alternative consumer choices and technological efficiency improvements are less well understood.

 © Zheng Xiaoqiao |

© Zheng Xiaoqiao |

 For instance, energy demand options are represented in aggregated ways in many energy and climate change models (i.e., not taking into account consumer values and choice), and therefore may provide fewer insights for policymakers who want to promote improved end-use efficiency. It is not clear what policy instruments could change behavior and promote technological efficiency improvements that might reduce resource consumption and GHG emissions without compromising human wellbeing.

IIASA will address two particular aspects of this problem through collaborative research involving expertise from IIASA programs in all areas:

Potential GHG reductions due to consumer choices, technological efficiency improvements, and the role of policy instruments.

Demand for food, housing, and mobility, which are determined by consumer choices and, ultimately, preferences account for a large share of GHG emissions.

In the short term, it is often assumed that preferences will remain more or less fixed. Changes in demand are driven by changes in price, income, and various consumer characteristics like age, education level, and family situation. In the longer term, there is more scope for preference changes, as consumers reevaluate the relative utility of different choices for different reasons. There could also be scope for policy intervention through education, information, regulation, economic incentivesetc., which could trigger deeper transformations of societies.

IIASA will address these issues through research that will extend the current analyses of its GAINS, MESSAGE, and GLOBIOM models by improving the treatment of human choice. The overall objective is to develop a quantitative modeling framework of human consumption behavior, and how this could be changed in the medium term to enable a transition to lower energy and land use intensities. The proposed research seeks to determine what factors determine historic and current consumer demand and changes in consumption patterns (notably for food, housing, and mobility) and to estimate quantitative relationships between them. By improving the treatment of the demand side in energy models, this research will provide the foundation for identifying feasible policy interventions to encourage changes in current and future preference structures toward less GHG-intensive consumption patterns.

The following activites contribute to this theme:

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Last edited: 08 April 2016


Markus Amann

Program Director

Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases

T +43(0) 2236 807 432

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313