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Environmentally Significant Behaviour in the Czech Republic: Energy, Food and Transportation

Environmentally Significant Behaviour in the Czech Republic: Energy, Food and Transportation

Ščasný, MilanUrban, JanZvěřinová, Iva

subjects: science – environment

paperback, 258 pp., 1. edition
published: may 2013
ISBN: 978-80-246-2076-3
recommended price: 260 czk

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summary

This book strives to present the results of research into the consumption of goods and services in Czech households. The first two chapters focus on the effect of consumption on the environment and theoretical approaches towards consumption and behaviour analysis. The remaining five chapters look into consumer behaviour and its significant effect on the environment, such as a demand for energy and transport, energy-saving measures in households, car ownership and organic food consumption. This book aims to point out the environmental effects related to these types of behaviour and provide new information on the frequency of these types of consumer behaviour in various segments of the Czech society. This publication also accentuates the policies and other intervention tools that may be used to influence consumer behaviour.

table of contents

Chapter 1: Environmentally Significant Behaviour
Chapter 2: Factors of Consumption Behaviour and Their Policy Relevance
Chapter 3: Residential Energy and Transport Demand
Chapter 4: Curtailments as Means of Energy Saving
Chapter 5: Residential Energy-efficiency Investments
Chapter 6: Passenger Car Ownership
Chapter 7: Organic Food Buying Behaviour
Summary
Resumé (in Czech language /v českém jazyce)
References
Appendices
Index

reviews

Drawing upon a rich set of databases, this is an excellent analysis of the factors which encourage consumers and households to take environmental factors into account in their decision-making. This includes areas in which a complex mix of public (environmental) and private (personal health, financial savings) motivations are present. Moreover, the decisions analysed include investments in costly consumer durables (cars, appliances), as well as practices related to the use of such durables. Less important habitual purchases (food, light bulbs, etc.) are also covered. Each chapter ends with a summary of policy implications, making the publication valuable for policymakers, as well as academics.

The first chapter of the book sets out the meaning of the term "environmentally-significant behaviour" as used in the rest of the book. While this may seem uninteresting at first glance, it reflects the careful thought the authors have put into the subject matter. For instance, "environmental" (or green) behaviour presupposes the existence of a form of behaviour which is not "environmental" (or brown), i.e. distinctions are one of degree and not kind. In a related vein it is important to distinguish between behaviour which is defined as "green" by impact and by intention. In a world of imperfect information the two may differ. And finally, different decisions may be interdependent. The "use" of an appliance may increase with its efficiency; undermining some of the environmental benefits associated with its purchase. The authors do an excellent job untangling these different aspects of household behaviour.

Chapter 2 includes a carefully-reasoned methodological discussion on the importance of distinguishing between prediction and causation. Such a discussion is welcome. However, my one complaint is that the chapter would have benefited from the use of examples which relate directly to the subject matter of the book. It is left to the reader to think of examples in the environmental sphere which are analogous to those presented in the book.

This is followed by thematic chapters on energy, transport and food. The first of these focuses on the modelling of energy demand, and includes an excellent review of the literature. However, the greatest contribution of the chapter is the focus on differences in price and income elasticities across different segments of the population. The variation found is likely to be of considerable use to policymakers as they consider the social impacts of policies.

Drawing upon a database collected as part of an OECD Environment Directorate project on "Environmental Policy and Household Behaviour", Chapters 4 and 5 focus on energy-saving behaviour (or curtailments) and efficiency investments respectively. Given the discussion of the "rebound effect" in Chapter 1 the two chapters may have been re-ordered, and greater attention could have been paid to this issue. For instance, in the analysis of "curtailment" ownership of efficient appliances could have been included as an explanatory variable. The discussion of renewable energy could also have been placed in a different chapter since the motivations are likely to be quite different. However, these are minor quibbles. The chapters give much food for thought.

Chapter 6 focuses on the determinants of car ownership, and uses two datasets collected by the Czech Statistical Office with over 40,000 observations. At the descriptive level car ownership is relatively low in the Czech Republic, and nor is it rising particularly quickly. For this reason, the modelling of the respondents "stated reasons" for "not owning a car" is particularly interesting. Another great strength of this chapter is the interesting set of results related to the "life cycle" of car ownership. In particular there is an inverted-U with ownership peaking in the mid- to late-40s. In addition, families with young children are more likely to be car owners.

The book concluded with a chapter on organic food consumption. This is based on data collected by "the authors" themselves. Region, gender, age and education level are consistently found to be good predictors of organic food consumption. However, the most important factors are stated beliefs about potential health and environmental benefits.

In summary, this is an excellent publication which provides a wealth of insights into the factors which encourage environmentally-significant behaviour. It is well-written and the modelling strategies are clearly explained, with the main results summarised in an easily-accessible form. It is likely to be of interest to readers beyond the Czech Republic.

Z recenzního posudku: Nick Johnstone