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Travel behavior in everyday life crucial for climate and health

Published: 21 April 2021

Today, we move in everyday life in ways that are negative for the climate and our health. Development of climate-neutral and transport-efficient solutions is necessary. But it also requires extensive changes in behavior for us to succeed in traveling sustainably. Vinnova is now investing in behavior-changing solutions for climate-smart and healthy travel.

This web page has been machine translated. If there are any uncertainties, please refer to the Swedish text.

Sweden's climate goal for the transport sector is that by 2030 it should have reduced its climate impact by 70 percent compared with 2010. This will also lead to increased health benefits and that streets and land can be used in new and more efficient ways.

To get there requires, among other things, technical solutions, more efficient vehicles, renewable fuels and investments in public transport, walking and cycling. Measures in these areas will all contribute to the goal, but it is not enough.

Behavioral changes crucial for future climate and public health

In order to reach the climate goal all the way, the efforts must be supplemented with measures that break habitual behaviors at the everyday level. Measures that affect our travel behavior, choice of mode of transport and above all our attitude to the car as the norm.

- Without extensive behavioral changes, we will not be able to meet the climate goal. Approximately one third of the emission reductions required are estimated to come from changed habits. With that said, too much focus is placed on looking ahead and finding the perfect solution. The transition is not linear but dynamic and therefore requires a wide range of efforts that develop over time. The solution is not complicated but complex, says Maria Stenström, responsible for mobility and behavioral issues at the 2030 Secretariat.

The 2030 Secretariat works with the follow-up of Sweden reaching the climate goal and acting as a unifying force for actors in all sectors of society. Maria Stenström sees broad collaboration as a success factor for innovation, but since the solutions are also about people's behavior, more conditions will be central for us to succeed.

- To change people's behavior, we must first become interested in how their lives work. Needs create behaviors, and the alternatives to today's travel habits that we are looking for need to meet everyday needs. We also need to ask ourselves whether today's needs are necessary. Do we have to commute? What structures create the needs we see today? Can we change societal structures to also change the need to move? When different actors work together, we can find long-term, climate-wise and economically sustainable solutions that benefit all parties, Maria Stenström emphasizes.

Behavioral design helps us do what we know we should do

I Sverige, we generally have good knowledge of the climate and the consequences of not acting. We also generally understand that it is crucial for health that we move. But still we are far from acting on this to a sufficient extent. We Swedes, for example, are high on the list when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and we still prefer our own car for short trips instead of walking or cycling.

What is it then that prevents us from translating our knowledge into changed behaviors in everyday life?

Niklas Laninge is a psychologist and expert in behavioral design. He has for a long time helped companies and organizations to understand what drives people's behavior and why we humans do as we do. Today he works mainly with large-scale behavioral changes.

- The last ten years we have really seen a real upswing for applied behavioral science, not least when it comes to the subject's role in innovation. Changing behaviors is, as many have noticed, not the easiest thing to do, but requires a systematic and gradual approach. Above all, this is important when it comes to understanding the user's behavior based on his ability, motivation and the enablers that exist in her environment, says Niklas Laninge.

Behaviors can change as long as the individual has the capacity, motivation and conditions for it. It is also possible to accelerate behavioral changes through economic instruments and policy, as well as through social pressure and consumer will.

The challenge when it comes to behaviors in climate and health is, among other things, that the effects are not direct and that we have difficulty seeing the immediate benefits of acting in a certain way. We are also quite comfortable habits and social beings who like to do what others do and give us appreciation for.

In Niklas Laninge's work with behavioral design, the focus is on people wanting to change behavior based on the individual being given a choice to create benefit for themselves and / or society. Without financial incentives, pressure or bans.

- Mobility and travel is a major research area among behavioral scientists. Over the years, there have been a number of insights into what can be done to get travelers to choose a more active and sustainable way to travel. Unfortunately, these insights have rarely left the academy, so I naturally see great opportunities for actors such as public transport contractors, product developers and policy makers to get help to apply academic insights and create something that actually influences behavior in real life, says Niklas Laninge.

New effort for climate-smart and healthy travel

In a new offer, Vinnova is now looking for solutions that make it easier for people to make climate-smart and healthy choices when they travel; for example to and from work, school or leisure activities. This can be through new business models, new regulations or attitude-changing activities or services. This can be in combination with new technical solutions.

- As we travel and relocate today, we contribute to extensive negative effects on climate and health. With this investment, we hope to create better conditions for sustainable mobility through solutions that in new ways increase individuals' knowledge, motivation or conditions to be able to change behaviors and travel habits, says Sara Hugosson, programme manager at Vinnova.

Until 17 June, it is possible to apply for up to half a million kronor to investigate and develop an idea at an early stage, and up to three million kronor to further develop and test a solution.


Sara Hugosson

Programme Manager

Last updated 21 April 2021

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