Climate Change Strategy in Local Government: The Role of Psychological Adaptation in Understanding Community Engagement

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Quayle, Brett (2021) Climate Change Strategy in Local Government: The Role of Psychological Adaptation in Understanding Community Engagement. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Climate change response is a social contract that requires collective action and can be enhanced through human agency. Management research is needed to examine how institutions at various levels are accountable for climate change and to consider the social and behavioural contexts relevant to the institutions’ engagement with the community. Community climate change response is also an under-researched phenomenon, particular into how the social dimensions of climate actions coalesce with an institutional response. Community collective climate action has been conceptualised as the collective effort between citizens and local government. This multilevel mixed methods research explored public accountability at the local government level and collective climate actions, through a social-psychological lens, at an individual level. A case study of six local governments in Victoria, Australia was undertaken, where council interview transcripts and documents were examined via discourse analysis. Results from the analysis suggest that accountability mechanisms include community demands, hierarchical chain of command, and embedding climate change response within the council and the political interests of its leaders. In the second study, 603 Victorian citizens participated in a survey that focused on how psychological adaptation, social norms, collective efficacy, and procedural justice contribute to collective climate action tendencies. Results of a structural equation model indicated a positive psychological appraisal of climate change influenced the degree to which an individual engages in collective actions, but the magnitude of this relationship depends on the degree to which the individual believes the group can act. Procedural justice had a dampening effect on this positive relationship. The results of these two studies were then synthesised and conceptually integrated in a joint display. Community collective climate actions encompass systems, processes, and behaviours at multiple levels and require incentives that promote self-interest, as well as the collective good. People need to see the benefits of their contributions to the collective good, as this awareness of the benefits of their contribution enhances efficacy and builds a sense of agency. Community response to climate change has an important and complementary role, and insights from public accountability and psychology can contribute to a nuanced understanding of this phenomenon in the Australian context.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4407 Policy and administration
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 5205 Social and personality psychology
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords climate change, community, local government, accountability, psychology, collective action, public policy, Australia, Victoria
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