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SANOCEAN-South Africa - Norway co-operation on ocean research including blue economy, climate change, the env

Water/Energy conservation and fairness in collective burden sharing

Alternative title: Vann/Energi konservering og rettferdig fordeling

Awarded: NOK 1.0 mill.

Previous projects conducted by the Environmental-Economics Policy Research Unit (EPRU), School of Economics, University of Cape Town, have shown that in a country as unequal as South Africa it is particularly important to customize messages around resource conservation for different subpopulations. For example, it was found that households respond differently to behavioural messages sent via billing inserts motivating water savings (Brick et al., 2018). This study will assess the perception of fairness of burden sharing regarding the conservation of water during the water crisis. We have designed a large survey consisting of four parts. The first part measures incentivized beliefs about how the reduction in water consumption during the last drought was distributed between rich and poor in Cape Town. The second part elicits what the respondents think would have been the fair way to distribute the reduction in water consumption. The third part elicits attitudes to how a future drought should be handled, where we in different treatments manipulate the information provided about what happened during the previous drought and information about the likelihood of a future drought. The final part elicits policy preferences. We have completed the design process. A comprehensive survey has been developed to measure and fairness views, policy attitudes, and beliefs about others behavior and it will be implemented with 2.500 respondents a local survey provider: AskAfrica. At this very moment we are piloting the study with low-income households. We are collecting feedback from these groups to understand overall comprehension of the questions prior to large-scale implementation across Cape Town with all income groups.

This study addresses perceptions of fairness of different income groups about how the burden of collective action in conserving water and energy should be allocated in times of crisis. Using the insights of fairness principles, behavioural interventions will be designed that incentivise conservation of scarce resources, as well as, payment for received municipal services. The first part of this study will assess how people from different income groups have responded to demand side management interventions related to energy and water crises (tariffs, behavioural interventions, media announcements) and other measures such as expenditure on large infrastructure projects in the City of Cape Town municipality. In particular, the study will evaluate whether there are differing perceptions of fairness between groups about how the burden of collective action in conserving water and should be allocated. In addition, we would like to investigate the unequal burden sharing regarding women and utilities consumption. As main users of utilities in a household, it is probable that women may be disproportionately hit harder by the water/energy crisis than men as scarce or unpredictable supply is likely to affect them more. During the second part of the study, surveys and lab experiments will be conducted in order to measure the different perceptions of fairness across income quantiles and how behavioural incentives may facilitate contributions towards collective action and provision of services. During part three of the research project, drawing on insights about fairness principles, we will design and test behavioural nudges aimed at incentivising payment for services. The nudges will be customised based on differences in subpopulations identified in part 1 and part 2 of the project. In line with our previous research, we will utilise the utility billing system to distribute messages to different subgroups of households.

Funding scheme:

SANOCEAN-South Africa - Norway co-operation on ocean research including blue economy, climate change, the env