Why cry foul every time a political figure uses a private jet?

Following the first round of the presidential election on April 10, 2022, the average Green pinned the choice of Prime Minister Jean Castex to have used a private jet to go and vote in Prades, in the Pyrénées-Orientales.

A petition even popped up to encourage him to make a proxy on the occasion of the second round.

This is not the first time that a political figure has been criticized for using the plane deemed unjustified.

This new controversy arises in a context where calls to reduce household energy consumption are multiplying, while the European Union must free itself from its energy dependence vis-à-vis Russia and that the publication of the last part of the IPCC report on April 4, 2022 once again warns of the urgency of drastic action to curb climate change.

In addition to the financial impact for the taxpayer of the excessive use of private jets, what effects can such behavior on the part of political figures have on consumers in terms of energy choices?

In a study published in the summer of 2020 in the Responsible Organization Review, I have tried to explore the main reasons why people do not reduce their household energy consumption, despite the urgings to do so.

In this work, I established a typology of consumers according to their relationship to energy savings. If on the side of the “resisters”, the motivations are diverse, the contradictory speeches and attitudes of the leaders appear as a salient factor.

These 1001 reasons to be resistant to change

First, there are those who believe that energy savings are just a fad that will pass, that they are tired of hearing about it and making an effort. Others are explicitly climate skeptical: they simply do not believe in environmental issues, nor therefore in the need to reduce their residential energy consumption.

The theory of Nudge suggests that individuals' choices can be influenced by non-financial and non-binding incentives.
Surav Raina

Others invoke the preservation of their individual freedom: they refuse that public action interferes in their daily life and prevent them from consuming what they want, when they want and how they want.

Yet another fringe shows a general reluctance to change, which goes beyond "habits" and can have 4 dimensions : routine seeking, emotional reaction, short-term focus and cognitive rigidity.

A sense of injustice

But there is another segment among these “resisters” to energy saving: that of those revolted by the injustice perceived with regard to the real polluters, by the inconsistency of public action and its lack of transparency.

They believe that the public authorities are hounding households while being lax vis-à-vis the major polluting groups. Our qualitative research, through interviews and netnography, reveals that these respondents, because they judge the action of the State to be contradictory, go so far as to refuse to adopt energy-efficient behavior.

For them, on the one hand, the state encourages the population to adopt economical behaviors, while on the other hand not informing them of the energy-intensive nature of technological innovations and new appliances.

The schizophrenia of public authorities

Public action can indeed appear schizophrenic on this subject, caught between the challenges of economic growth and market dynamics and those of regulating consumer behavior.

The left bar represents the average for the mode, the middle bar is hatched only for short distance moves, and on the right long distance moves which are more directly comparable to aerial in terms of patterns.
Aurélien Bigo/Ademe and ENTD data, CC BY-NC-ND

For the revolted respondents, resistance to consumption therefore appears as a way of expressing their point of view and revealing their opposition to this double discourse.

"No, not at all. I'm not going to play dumb while the others are spending money on the princess's expense." “, “Let them start at the top”, expresses one interviewee. “Why don't the people above tighten their belts. ".

“In the evening, on the national roads, there are shopping complexes… which leave all the lights on in deserted car parks. The energy consumption of Las Vegas, Politicians who travel by Private Jet…”, underlines another anonymous contributor on the forum sur-la-toile.com.

"Calculating the ecological footprint: evaluating the trace left on the passage on this Earth (in terms of depletion of resources and pollution) and above all, for those who can (i.e. societies), the profit taken from these levies (gratos), and point the finger at the culprits, the real ones. (Anonymized, forum: sur-la-toile.com)

If they want to convince this group of resistance fighters to act in favor of energy management, public actors will have to refine their communication and try to correct the perceived injustice.

In this regard, political figures would benefit from proving their consistency and ensuring that the message they broadcast is reflected in their behavior.

Dhouha El Amri, Lecturer in Management Sciences, Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne University (UPEC)

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

Image credit: Shutterstock / Victor Joly

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