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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2011

26 - Societal choice and communicating the European nitrogen challenge

from Part V - European nitrogen policies and future challenges


Executive summary

Nature of the problem

Increased public and institutional awareness of both the benefits and threats of nitrogen has the potential to greatly increase the efficacy of nitrogen policy.

Insufficient recognition of the financial, behavioural and cultural barriers to achieving an optimal nitrogen future risks policy antagonisms and failure.

Here we examine some of the key societal levers for and barriers to achieving an optimal nitrogen future in Europe, drawing lessons from the more-developed societal and policy challenge of climate change mitigation.

Key findings/state of knowledge

There is currently a very low level of public and media awareness of nitrogen impacts and policies. However, awareness is high regarding the threats and benefits of ‘carbon’ to society (e.g. energy use and enhanced climate change).

Many national climate change mitigation policies now overtly recognize the importance of societal choice, and are increasingly utilizing behavioural change strategies to achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

In achieving an optimal nitrogen future, lessons can and should be learned from existing climate change-focused communication and behavioural science (e.g. use of a ‘segmented strategy’ to reach disparate groups of stakeholders).

Key sectors where societal choice has the potential to greatly influence nitrogen use efficiency include food production, consumption and waste.

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