| Policy Brief | Behavioral insights for climate action

climate action
Written by
Published on
December 16, 2019

The Geneva Science-Policy Interface launched its new policy brief on Behavioral insights for climate action at the UN in Geneva, on 28 January 2020.In order to mitigate climate change, a rapid behavioral shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle is required. However, the necessary behavioral changes are occurring only quite slowly, and it is unclear whether carbon emissions can be reduced in time to prevent drastic climatic consequences. The relative lack of efficient climate change action in the population may be explained to some extent by the abstract nature of climate change, which poses a significant challenge to human perceptual, cognitive, and affective processing mechanisms. This results in a lack of emotional and moral responses towards climate change, which would however be necessary to motivate significant behavior change.

Authored by Professor Tobias Brosch from the University of Geneva, the brief synthesizes the state of knowledge on behavioral insights to support climate actions. Such insights can facilitate the processing of the individual relevance of climate change and can integrate psychological levers addressing self-interested, moral, and social aspects of climate action.

The launch event for the brief, hosted by the UN SDG Lab and with support from the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, gathered about 80 professionals from the international Geneva ecosystem. Following a presentation by Prof. Brosch, a panel* of policy actors and practitioners moderated by Ms. Kali Tayor (Advisor, SDG Lab) dived into practical ways in which behavioral insights could help intervention in national and regional contexts. Pathways discussed included reducing the level of abstraction of climate change, providing measurable goals and working on people's self-interest. As environmental issues are competing with economic, social and rights-based priorities at the local level, research insights also need to be adapted to local contexts and over time.

Common interests emerged around the idea of converging efforts towards producing open behavioral data sets that could be used by researchers and policy actors in order to promote sustainable lifestyles. Many people during and after the panel stressed the importance to maintain an ethical and transparent approach in the deployment of behavioral tools with the public.Many people interacted and mingled in the following cocktail, and it is our hope that concrete science-policy collaborations will emerge from this brief and its launch.

>>Download the policy brief [PDF]<<

Welcome (5min) – Nicolas Seidler, Executive Director, GSPI

Presentation of the policy brief (20 min) – Professor Tobias Brosch, University of Geneva

Panel discussion: Using Behavioral Insights in Climate Policies (30min) – Moderated by Kali Taylor (International Institute for Sustainable Development & SDG Lab)

  • Chris Beaton, Senior Policy Advisor, International Institute for Sustainable Development
  • John Maughan, Research Program Manager, Green Growth Knowledge Platform
  • Claire Hobden, Specialist on Vulnerable Workers, Domestic Work, International Labour Organisation
  • Jean Pierre Reymond, Head of Office – Office of Innovation and Partnerships, Swiss Mission to the United Nations

Discussion with the audience (20min) Cocktail & Networking (45 min)


This event was organized by the Geneva Science-Policy Interface in partnership with the SDG Lab and the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences (CISA).

Here is more information about GSPI policy briefs.


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