What is BALANCE about?

Austria has set out on an ambitious pathway towards low carbon transformation. For this historical endeavour to be successful, policy fields need no longer be conceived as isolated silos, but should be harmonised and balanced in order to leverage synergies and to cushion detrimental side-effects.

BALANCE takes up this call and designs low carbon policy mixes that reconcile the climate and social policy arenas in the domain of housing. Housing, on the one hand, contributes significantly to Austria’s carbon emissions and, on the other hand, is pivotal for reducing social inequality. The housing domain showcases typical dynamics where climate and social policy intersect: Energy poverty, for instance, arises at the nexus of low income, poor housing quality and high energy costs, leading to higher rebound effects among the less affluent. Introducing strict standards for energy efficient buildings may jeopardise the provision of affordable and socially inclusive housing, as standards may lead to additional segmentation of the housing market or social segregation between residential areas. BALANCE aims to design low carbon policies for the housing domain that reach climate targets without cutting back on the social agenda.

BALANCE applies an empirical inter- and transdisciplinary framework to understand climate and social policy as interlinked and mutually reinforcing fields. First, the project analyses impacts of currently implemented climate and social policies in the housing domain on both climate and social targets. Building on these insights, BALANCE designs future low carbon policy mixes that integrate measures from both arenas in order to align climate with social targets. The derived policy mixes are validated by and disseminated to relevant stakeholders.

BALANCE is structured as an iterative process of design and assessment, which results in low carbon policy mixes that are environmentally effective and socially fair. BALANCE consists of five interlocking substantial work packages (WP1 is tasked with project management):

  • WP2 compiles the targets and instruments currently active in the climate and social policy fields. For each policy target, indicators are defined. International case studies outline best practice examples of effective and fair policies.
  • WP3 undertakes an ex-post impact assessment of current Austrian climate and social policies. Intended, unintended and reciprocal impacts are analysed, i.e. climate policies improving or worsening social indicators, and vice versa.
  • WP4 acts as recurring pivotal point for synthesising and weighting findings towards future policy mixes. It pays particular attention to leveraging synergies and optimising trade-offs within each mix. Moreover, WP4 outlines how institutional agendas could shift towards policy integration across the climate and social arena.
  • WP5 conducts an ex-ante impact assessment of future policy mixes. Herein, weight, reach and stringency of different policy elements are rebalanced to address climate as well as social policy targets.
  • Finally, WP6 disseminates results to the academic and practical community, and stimulates a dialogue across the climate and social policy fields.