Citizenship, the environment and energy

The concept of citizenship has been further elaborated (Smith, 1998; Dobson, 2003) in relation to the environmental problems that society faces.

Dobson (2003) highlights the evolution of citizenship from the liberal and civic republican tradition to the post-cosmopolitan conception that is currently taking shape. Liberalism is recognised as potentially suitable for facilitating the transition towards a sustainable society because of the importance that it attributes to offering individuals and society in general—present and future generations—the ability to choose between several different options.

Furthermore, Dobson (2003) distinguishes between environmental citizenship and ecological citizenship. Enviromnental citizenship is grounded in the public sphere and is, in essence, based on the rights and duties attributed to citizens in order to regulate their relationships with the environment in the liberal context of the nation-state. Ecological citizenship is a post-cosmopolitan form of citizenship that is not based on the nation-state: it is non-territorial, yet grounded in both the public and the private spheres and develops from citizenship virtues.

Dobson (2003) regards education as an important means to delivering sustainability with the rationale that a substantial change in society is possible, just by transmitting pro-environmental values to future generations. He contraposes this option with the possibility of using incentives and disincentives, and considers education as best suited to deliver long-lasting change.

Extending citizenship to the field of energy policy, Devine-Wright (2004, 2007) considers that citizenship might deliver the sort of social change that could lead to a low-carbon society. He stresses the importance of citizenship as a status that entails responsibilities which could be enforced but which are subjectively perceived and, in both cases, he holds that they could lead to more sustainable behaviours.

Citizenship and pro-environmental behaviours

The concept of citizenship introduced earlier is an important policy tool for shaping individual agency in order to deliver or protect public goods, especially regarding climate change and the energy transition (Pellegrini-Masini el al., 2019). Public goods, such as the environment or security, are the by-product of social interaction that is governed by formal rules, laws and informal personal and social norms (see, e.g., Putnam, 1993). Therefore, citizenship, both at a formal and at an informal level, can be used to encourage or even impose behaviours that are necessary in order to protect public goods. The specific field of study of environmental citizenship is, in fact, an example of such a use of citizenship in order to address environmental problems (Smith, 1998; Dobson, 2003).

In order to substantially reduce CO, emissions, it will, in all likelihood, be necessary to intervene in respect of both the formal rights and duties of citizenship (Pellegrini-Masini et al., 2019) and the practice of citizenship, encouraging its exercise in a pro-environmental way, e.g. participating in renewable energy co-operatives. This kind of participation can be seen as an exercise of active ecological citizenship; it could be encouraged by governments establishing a set of rules and incentives, which would favour this behaviour among other types of citizen participation in renewable energy production.

Theoretical approaches to civic engagement

A number of social science approaches have been used to study different forms of civic engagement and civic participation. What follows is a summary of the relevant research, with a focus on which variables might relate to the acceptability of wind farms and participation in wind farm co-operatives.

Rational choice models

Rational choice models assume that, before acting, citizens evaluate the costs and benefits of the considered action and consequently decide whether or not to act. This model assumes self-interest as the main motive of individual action. While material rewards were originally considered the principal motives, Tyler et al. (1986) highlight non-material gains, such as power and prestige. As Pattie et al. (2003) insist, once non-material personal benefits were considered, the literature began to distinguish between selective and collective benefits. The former category refers to benefits obtained by individuals participating in public life, while the latter refers to benefits available to all as a result of the public activities developed. Three models of participation are presented below, which draw on the rational model but include concepts from social psychology.

General incentives rational action model

In the general incentives model outlined by Whiteley and Seyd (1996, cited in Pattie et al., 2003), participation is a function of costs and benefits and expressive attachments—to a group or community. These attachments motivate behaviours on behalf of the community. In the general incentives model, a “sense of duty” (Pattie et al., 2003) fosters civic engagement. Selective benefits

are included and can be divided into three categories: (i) process benefits, i.e. benefits deriving from participation in the political process; (ii) outcome benefits, privatised outcome benefits; and (iii) group benefits, privatised advantages that benefit groups. Additionally, collective benefits are those that will be available to the community as a result of collective action and political efficacy (the perceived responsiveness of the political system to the expectations of individual citizens), which encourage participation. Finally, this model includes social norms, the normative attitudes of family and friends towards participation.

Pattie et al. (2003) tested the model against the social capital and civic voluntarism models (for a description of the models, see pp. 00-00). Their research demonstrated that “low-cost” forms of involvement (e.g. making a donation to an organisation) were more frequent than “high cost” (e.g. participating in a strike) forms of involvement. Their study further showed that benefits, resources, participation in other organisations and mobilisation were effective in explaining participation.

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