Portrait picture Oskar Lindgren
Oskar Lindgren

On 24 May 2024 Oskar Lindgren, PhD student at CCL, presented the progression of his research at his PhD half-time seminar. Oskar is investigating the political feasibility of stringent consumer-oriented climate policies, particularly focusing on rationing as a means to reduce overconsumption. The opponent was Professor Malcolm Fairbrother from the Department of Sociology at Uppsala University.  Find the abstract of Oskar’s half-time synopsis below.

Choosing appropriate climate policy instruments is challenging and various criteria apply. While many economists tend to focus on cost-efficiency, political scientists stress the importance of considering political feasibility aspects like public acceptance. However, in contrast to intense debates about the most appropriate policy instruments, most scientists agree that widespread shifts to consumption behaviors offer an opportunity for rapid climate mitigation. The common thread running through the four papers in this thesis is their attention to the political feasibility and in particular the public acceptability of stringent consumption-oriented policies. The thesis focuses on regulatory (command-and-control) policies, and rationing in particular, due to of the lack of research on public attitudes towards them and evidence suggesting that a broad set of instruments, including regulatory, economic and informative policies, is more effective than any single regulatory response.

The findings currently coming of the papers in the thesis both corroborate, challenge and add new knowledge. Paper I (Lindgren et al., 2023) shows that there are hardly any example of climate policies steering towards absolute consumption reductions in Sweden. Surprisingly, the two survey studies (paper II (Lindgren et al., in review) and III (Lindgren et al., manuscript)) conducted across six diverse countries indicate that rationing may not be more strongly opposed than taxation by the general public. Individuals expressing concern for climate change and a strong moral obligation to accept tougher environmental regulation are more likely to accept restrictive policies like rationing. One the contrary, acceptability of rationing is also influenced by individual’s self-interest motives, as frequent car drivers and meat eaters are less likely to accept the instrument. The findings from paper III underscore the importance of considering various dimensions of public policy attitudes when attempting to alter consumption behaviors through regulatory means and that these attitudes are likely to vary across contexts. Although more research is needed to validate these findings, they prompt climate policy scholars to pay closer attention to restrictive climate policies targeting consumption, and encourage politicians to consider value-based predispositions, climate change concern and people’s self-interest when considering the implementation of such policies. 

Paper I: Lindgren, O., Hahn, T., Karlsson, M. & Malmaeus, M. (2023). Exploring sufficiency in energy policy: insights from Sweden. Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, 19(1). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15487733.2023.2212501

Paper II:  Lindgren, O., Elwing, E., Karlsson, M. & Jagers, S.C. Public acceptability of climate-motivated rationing. In review

Paper III:  Lindgren, O. Factors explaining public acceptability of rationing as a climate policy instrument: A cross-country survey analysis. Manuscript