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A new approach to explain farmers’ adoption of climate change mitigation measures

Abstract

The determinants of farmers’ decisions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are currently not well understood. This study takes several new angles in investigating farmers’ climate change mitigation behaviour. Based on two identical surveys among representative samples of Dutch farmers, this study examines the underlying determinants and motivating factors for three different types of climate change mitigation measures on farms: energy saving, the production of renewable energy and reduction of emissions of methane and nitrous oxide (non-CO2 emissions). Furthermore, the study explores whether farmers’ awareness and behaviour has been influenced by a communication campaign carried out by the government of the Netherlands between 2012 and 2015. Four major conclusions emerge. Firstly, the analyses demonstrate that accounting for the cost-effectiveness and technology readiness level (TRL) of different types of climate change mitigation measures provides for a better understanding of the factors that motivate farmers to adopt these measures. Secondly, neither the willingness to take GHG reduction measures nor knowledge on GHG emissions are consistent motivating factors for energy-related measures. Thirdly, it seems that external factors, such as economic hardship, dominate the overall environmental awareness of farmers. Fourthly, the farmer’s propensity to innovate proved to be the strongest and most consistent predictor of both the willingness and the actual adoption of climate change mitigation technologies. Therefore, focusing on making farmers more open to change and general innovation in campaigns in the agricultural sector might be more effective than campaigns focusing specifically on climate change mitigation.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all the farmers for participating in the telephone surveys.

Funding

The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality funded both the communication program and the surveys

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Correspondence to Albert Moerkerken.

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Moerkerken, A., Blasch, J., van Beukering, P. et al. A new approach to explain farmers’ adoption of climate change mitigation measures. Climatic Change 159, 141–161 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02595-3

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Keywords

  • Climate change mitigation
  • Agriculture
  • Communication campaign
  • Energy use
  • Farmer behaviour