The cultural barriers to a low-carbon future: A review of six mobility and energy transitions across 28 countries

Benjamin K. Sovacool, Steve Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


This review focuses on how culture can complicate and impede attempts at promoting more efficient, more sustainable, and often more affordable forms of mobility as well as energy use in homes and buildings. In simpler terms: it illustrates the cultural barriers to a low-carbon, low-energy future across 28 countries. Rather than focus on energy supply, it deals intently with energy end-use, demand, and consumption. In terms of low-carbon transport and mobility, it examines the cultural barriers to aggressive driving, speeding, and eco-driving; automated vehicles; and ridesharing and carpooling. In terms of cooking and building energy use, it examines the cultural barriers to solar home systems, improved cookstoves, and energy efficient heating, cooling, and hot water practices. For each case, the review synthesizes a wide range of studies showing that culture can operate as a salient but often unacknowledged barrier to low-carbon transitions as well as sustainability transitions more generally. The paper concludes with recommendations aimed at catalyzing the effectiveness and efficiency with which policymakers, researchers and practitioners are able to research, develop, demonstrate and deploy culturally appropriate technologies and policies for a low-carbon transition.

Original languageBritish English
Article number109569
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • Automated vehicles
  • Culture
  • Energy transitions
  • Innovation
  • Self-driving cars
  • Social acceptance
  • Sustainability transitions


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