Felix Creutzig talks about people and climate change, and his role as a Coordinating Lead Author (CLA) in WG III’s contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).
Felix Creutzig is Head of the ‘Land-use, Infrastructures and Transport’ Group at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and Chair of Sustainability Economics of Human Settlements at Technical University Berlin. Before becoming CLA of chapter 5 on ‘demand, services and social aspects of mitigation’ in AR6 he was a Lead Author (LA) in the transport chapter of AR5, during which time he lead
the ambiguity-laden task of reconciling diverse expertise on bioenergy and climate change. Felix was previously a Visiting Fellow at the “Princeton Institute for International and Regionals Studies”, postdoc at the Berkeley Institute of the Environment and Visiting Fellow at the Energy Foundation China in Beijing. Read his full bio here.
What is your research background?
I studied Physics and have a Ph.D in Computational Science. For the past 12 years, I’ve worked in climate change science, specialising in the economics of climate change mitigation. More recently I’ve been looking at the link between the social sciences and climate change mitigation.
Does that mean you look at the impact of Climate Change on peoples’ everyday lives?
That’s one of the perspectives that our chapter is working with in the Sixth Assessment Report. Our chapter, chapter 5, is about demand, services and the social aspects of mitigation. We take people as a point of study – their wellbeing, their lives – and we are looking at climate change mitigation from their perspective. The challenge is that there are many different perspectives on that, for example academic, scientific and social perspectives. Our chapter will consider and assess these as we look at what social science can contribute to climate mitigation and what the entry points for action are.
Are these actions that individuals can take?
It starts with people and how individuals can act. For example, the Special Report on Climate Change and Land showed that dietary choices are an action that individuals can take. Another example is changing your mode of transportation. However, this alone is not enough to mitigate climate change and it puts the responsibility on only individuals when oftentimes policies and structures are partly responsible for the current situation. Individuals can be part of the answer, but this mitigation is more effective if integrated with other parts of society that include, for example, how culture and social norms evolve, the structures and institutions around us, available physical infrastructure, like in cities, etc.
Does this change depending on the region/part of the world?
Yes, there is a different ‘behaviour capacity to act’ from one place to the other, which is something we’ll be considering. In many situations, people are bound by the structures around them. These could be social structures and practices, or physical structures. These structures affect their ability or capacity to act.
We also need to look at what constitutes wellbeing and what is important in different regions. So we will be considering access to services, food, health or employment. And there isn’t only one policy or way to respond to these, rather there’s a whole social system, within which policymaking is very important.
Could you tell us about the demand and services aspect of climate mitigation?
It’s important to differentiate between demand for services and demand for energy. There is a lot of demand for services, rather than energy, insofar as people aren’t invested in having a huge amount of a particular type of energy to consume. They’re more interested in the services that energy delivers, for example, the light in their homes, or the opportunity to access hospitals or other facilities. These are important services. There are opportunities to provide these services in a very low carbon way.
What’s it like being a CLA? What do you do?
There’s lots of coordinating for myself and my colleague (Joyashree Roy) as Chapter 5 CLAs! There are many requests for our chapter to deliver and a lot of input and figuring out how to make it come together.
We need to communicate with other chapters and make sure that our concepts come together. We also need to consider what other chapters are writing. I was previously an LA, and being a CLA is more work, but it’s a lot of fun to work with so many talented people and other areas of expertise.
What happens at a Lead Author Meeting (LAM)?
The main point of the meeting is to communicate with other authors and prepare the report. It involves a lot of working in a conference room all day. It’s really the only time we all see each other in person and it wouldn’t work without really meeting. There’s a lot to discuss!