1.1. Motivation and Research Questions
Current transport, food and energy production and consumption in Europe all need to change significantly to improve health of people, health equity and the environment [1
]. These changes constitute an integral part of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations [10
]. To achieve such positive changes and identify the needed actions four scenarios were created within the INHERIT project (www.inherit.eu
). These scenarios were designed to encourage triple win solutions (healthier, more sustainable lifestyles, as well as greater health equity). They describe what green spaces, active mobility, energy efficient housing or consumption of food and beverages may look like in Europe in the year 2040. However, they differ in the way the society is organized (individualistically versus collectively) and in the driving sector (public versus private) [11
To successfully implement actions and policies included in the scenarios it would be key to gain public acceptability or support [12
]. This study assesses public preferences in five European countries for these four scenarios in order to provide a better understanding of three main questions: (i) What scenarios are the most preferred in various domains of living and countries? (ii) Are there socioeconomic distinctions in the public acceptability of the scenarios? (iii) What value orientations would explain public acceptability of the healthier and more environmentally friendly scenarios?
The research questions stem from previous literature (Section 1.2
) and results of qualitative focus group research on these scenarios—giving an in depth perspective on the preferences of people in certain income groups for the INHERIT scenarios in selected countries [13
]. There is need to extend this work by using a quantitative approach—so see if similar findings to those in the focus groups hold for wider samples. In this article, we analyse data from a questionnaire survey we conducted in five European countries in 2018. In the questionnaire, respondents were asked to choose among the four scenarios of how green spaces, active mobility, energy efficient housing and food consumption might look like by the year 2040.
1.2. Literature Review and Hypotheses
Several previous studies have developed transport and diet scenarios aimed at increasing health or mitigation of climate change [15
]. Other studies proposed energy scenarios for decarbonisation that included large-scale deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency improvements, carbon capture and storage, and nuclear energy [17
]. A diversity of approaches, methods, policy scenarios, evaluation metrics and assumptions prevails. We found a consensus among the studies that change is needed, for example that reducing motor vehicle transport and meat consumption would lead to both better health and reduced emissions [15
However, most of the studies on the scenarios of Europe in 2030–2050 concentrated only on one goal (such as the mitigation of climate change) and one domain of development, typically from an expert perspective. Policies cannot succeed if they are not also supported by citizens’ actions and voting practices [19
], which are not enacted in isolation. Therefore, several studies examined public acceptability of policies, such as climate change or energy polices [12
]. Our study builds on this literature and examines preferences of lay people for healthier and more environmentally friendly policies and behaviours that are described in the scenarios of development of four domains (green spaces, active mobility, energy efficient housing, and food consumption). The four domains are experimental treatments that enable us to analyse differences in choices of scenarios under different contexts.
Only a few studies included the views of lay people on scenarios and explored their visions of the future from several aspects [24
]. Young Europeans created their future life in 2040 in relation to consequences for land use in a questionnaire survey. Overall, they desired a change toward sustainability, particularly of lifestyles (local and environmentally friendly food production, eating less meat, having access to green space and the ability to go to work by bike). However, they preferred owning family houses with gardens, international travel and extensive food production at the same time. This study used crowdsourcing as a sampling method, which led to a geographic bias, and an over-representation of respondents with a higher education (81%), while the other sample characteristics seemed reasonably representative [24
Furthermore, there are few recent public opinion polls representative of the EU countries that asked questions related to the future of the environment, health, and health equity in Europe [20
]. Regarding environment protection, Europeans think that the European Union should favour the preservation of natural resources (41%), the further deployment of renewable energies (39%) and an increase in recycling and waste sorting (38%). The opinions differ according to countries and sociodemographic variables. Youth (15–24 years old) in comparison to people older than 55 years, higher educated respondents (who had completed education aged 20 and over), managers, and people who position themselves in the upper class (in comparison to the working class) are more likely to give priority to further development of renewable energies [25
The majority of Europeans (78%) perceive that environmental problems have a direct impact on their daily life and their health [20
]. When respondents are forced to select only three options that would describe the ideal future for the EU, Europeans favour ‘equal wages for the same job across the EU’ the most (38%). Around one third of Europeans perceive a minimum level of guaranteed healthcare in all EU countries as the ideal future for the EU. People who think they belong to the upper class are much more likely to choose this goal. A minimum level of guaranteed healthcare is prioritized over ‘increased use of renewable energies within the European Union’ (23%). However, these polls let people evaluate particular goals or measures and not coherent scenarios of future development.
In this paper, we examine the preferences of lay people for the four scenarios, which differ in the way the society is organized (individualistically versus collectively) and in the driving sector (public versus private). We build on Schwartz’s Value Theory [27
], which categorises people’s values based on whether they motivate people to focus on their own personal interests (“self-enhancement” values), or to transcend self-interest and accentuate collective interests (“self-transcendence” values).
Value orientations, specifically egoistic, altruistic, and biospheric, were suggested as a theoretical basis of environmental concern and environment-related behaviours [28
]. Several empirical studies have shown that a conflict between immediate individual gains and long-term collective interests is often a part of adopting more environmentally friendly behaviour. Thus, “self-transcendent” (i.e., altruistic or biospheric) versus “self-enhancement” (i.e., egoistic) value dimensions can explain different types of environmental beliefs and behaviours, including support for environmental policies (for literature overview see [30
]). In general, people who hold strong biospheric and, to a lesser extent, altruistic values tend to evaluate more positively and are more likely to adopt sustainable energy behaviours, while people who hold strong egoistic and/or hedonic values are less likely do so [32
]. The same tendency was found for support for pro-environmental policy measures [31
]. Hedonic values make people emphasise pleasure and comfort, egoistic values motivate people to protect their personal resources (such as financial resources or status), altruistic values make people pay attention to the welfare of other people, and biospheric values motivate people to consider impacts on nature and the environment [33
]. The motivational goal of security includes health, safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self. Security values belong primarily to “conservation” value dimension and are closer to “self-enhancement” value dimension [27
Departing from Schwartz’s Value Theory [27
] and the previous studies, we examine the role of altruistic, biospheric, egoistic, hedonic, and security values in acceptability of the scenarios. We hypothesise that acceptability of the scenarios will increase with strong biospheric (H1a), altruistic (H1b), and security values (H1c), while it will decrease with strong egoistic (H1d) and/or hedonic values (H1e). Further, we hypothesise that people will be more likely to prefer the development of a collectively organised society driven by the public sector, when they hold “self-transcendent” values that is altruistic (H2a) and biospheric (H2b). In contrast, people will tend to favour individualistically organised society driven by the private sector, where they possess “self-enhancement” values that is egoistic (H2c) and hedonic (H2d).
Our approach overcomes the limits of the previous studies by: (i) asking people to make a choice of the best pathway among the four scenarios; (ii) analysing data representative of adult populations (18 to 65 years) of five European countries; (iii) explaining the potential support for the scenarios by values and socio-economic characteristics; (iv) examining preferences for future scenarios when they are presented within four different contexts defined by four domains of living.