LAMARTRA addresses the interlinkages between transition processes of decarbonisation and ‘labour market’ - understood more broadly as work and employment. The salience of these interlinkages is increasing as processes of low-carbon transition are progressing beyond their initial stages of pioneering and niche markets. This salience speaks from the increasing political weight of the ‘just transition’ discourse promoted jointly by the European Trade Union Confederation and the EU Commission. Much uncertainty remains about the possible directions that these ongoing transition processes may take.
Sustainability transition research seeks to understand the patterns and dynamics of structural societal change as well as unearth strategies for governance. However, existing frameworks emphasize innovation and build-up over exnovation and break-down. This limits their potential in making sense of the turbulent and chaotic dynamics of current transition-in-the-making. Addressing this gap, our paper elaborates on the development and use of the X-curve framework. The X-curve provides a simplified depiction of transitions that explicitly captures the patterns of build-up, breakdown, and their interactions. Using three cases, we illustrate the X-curve's main strength as a framework that can support groups of people to develop a shared understanding of the dynamics in transitions-in-the-making. This helps them reflect upon their roles, potential influence, and the needed capacities for desired transitions. We discuss some challenges in using the X-curve framework, such as participants' grasp of 'chaos', and provide suggestions on how to address these challenges and strengthen the frameworks' ability to support understanding and navigation of transition dynamics. We conclude by summarizing its main strength and invite the reader to use it, reflect on it, build on it, and judge its value for action research on sustainability transitions themselves.
The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11625-021-01084-w.
Advances in labour‐saving technology have sparked a public debate about the ‘Future of Work’. An important role in this debate is played by policy‐focused literature produced by institutions such as government agencies, international organisations, think tanks, and consulting firms. Using qualitative coding, the present study analyses this ‘grey’ literature (a total of 195 documents published in English 2013–2018) with a focus on what problem perceptions, frames, and policy recommendations prevail in this literature. We find that the dominant narrative treats technological advances as a prime cause of challenges in the labour market and places the main responsibility on the shoulders of individuals in the form of ‘upskilling’. We show how versions of this narrative vary across different types of institutions, what types of organisations are the most prolific publishers of policy papers in this space, and we offer a critique of dominant narratives within the ‘Future of Work’ discourse.
Political decisions and trends regarding coal use for electricity generation developed differently in the UK and Germany, despite being subject to relatively similar climate protection targets and general political and economic conditions. The UK agreed on a coal phase-out by 2024. In Germany, a law schedules a coal phase-out by 2038 at the latest. This paper investigates reasons for the different developments and aims to identify main hurdles and drivers of coal phase-outs by using the Triple Embeddedness Framework.
The comparative case study approach reveals that policy outcomes regarding coal consumption are deeply influenced by several actor groups, namely, coal companies, unions, environmental NGOs, and the government. The most discussed aspects of a coal phase-out in both countries are energy security concerns, whether coal is mined domestically, (regional) economic dependence, as well as the relative power of actors with vested interests in coal consumption.
Low-carbon transition processes can not only exacerbate existing social inequalities, but also create unprecedented forms of inequality. These social impacts can potentially combine and reinforce each other to create double or even triple vulnerabilities. With a view to ensuring a just transition, it is essential to consider social justice issues in the design of low-carbon strategies. The objective of the present paper is to explore whether and how low-carbon transition processes take into account these issues. It aims to identify and analyze low-carbon transition processes’ sensitivity to vulnerabilities, inequalities and adjacent social-economic fragilities. With this aim in mind, we have studied the case of the strategy towards a low-carbon Belgium. More specifically, we have carried out an analysis of existing institutional low-carbon scenarios exercises. These artifacts, which are situated at the interface between science and policy, are taken as an entry point for exploring the linkages between social and ecological objectives into low-carbon transition processes. Seven energy foresight studies carried out for Belgium were examined through a capability-based framework allowing to assess the way low-carbon scenarios address distributional, recognition and procedural justice. The analysis reveals that justice issues are hardly addressed in the exploration of low-carbon transition pathways. The potential conflicts and synergies between low-carbon strategies and social justice objectives are actually not taken into consideration – or only in a very limited way – in the scenario analyses reviewed. In the cases where these interactions are considered, we note that the analysis is often limited to distributional justice issues. Recognition and procedural justice are indeed missing in almost all the analysis – which is particularly problematic, since misrecognition and procedural injustice are not only injustices per se, but also foundations for distributional injustice. The paper concludes by emphasizing the importance of conducting low-carbon scenario exercises based on mixed methods acknowledging and coping with the pluralist needs, values, issues and solutions in order to ensure a just transition. In this sense, it is necessary to develop and experiment innovative participative approaches involving all the actors concerned by problem, including the ones representing the most vulnerable persons.
Promoting low‐carbon innovation has long been a central preoccupation within both the practice and theory of climate change mitigation. However, deep lock‐ins indicate that existing carbon‐intensive systems will not be displaced or reconfigured by innovation alone. A growing number of studies and practical initiatives suggest that mitigation efforts will need to engage with the deliberate decline of carbon‐intensive systems and their components (e.g., technologies and practices). Yet, despite this realisation, the role of intentional decline in decarbonization remains poorly understood and the literature in this area continues to be dispersed among different bodies of research and disciplines. In response, this article structures the fragmented strands of research engaging with purposive decline, interrogating the role it may play in decarbonization. It does so by systematically surveying concepts with particular relevance for intentional decline, focusing on phase‐out, divestment, and destabilization.
This article is categorized under:
• Decarbonizing Energy and/or Reducing Demand > Decarbonizing Energy and/or Reducing Demand
Abstract Global scenario assessments in support of climate, biodiversity, energy and other international policy deliberations tend to focus on a narrow bandwidth of possibilities: futures that unfold gradually from current patterns and trends. This “continuity bias” downplays the real risks (and opportunities) of structural discontinuity in the evolution of the global social-ecological system. The inclination to focus on mathematically tractable representations and conventional futures preferred by decision-makers is understandable, but constrains the scientific imagination and the scope of policy guidance. Earlier studies spotlighted discontinuous global futures, thereby revealing a broader spectrum of possibilities and repertoire of actions than found in contemporary scenario analysis. The paper revisits three types of futures introduced 25 years ago; examines three truths they convey about the contemporary moment; and points to three courses of action they suggest. Contemporary assessments centre on incrementally changing Conventional Worlds, yet varieties of global disruption (Barbarization) and progressive transformation (Great Transition) remain plausible alternatives. Corresponding to this triad, three synergistic action prongs—reform (incremental policies), remediation (emergency preparedness and prevention), and redesign (deep cultural and institutional change)—come into focus. Recovering a comprehensive perspective on the global possible would reinvigorate debate on the kind of transformation needed, broaden the action agenda, and stimulate innovative research for illuminating our indeterminate future. The COVID-19 pandemic, a concrete illustration of historical discontinuity, underscores the critical importance of emphasizing nonconventional futures in policy assessments.
Sociotechnical imaginaries (STIs) are widely used in the ERSS literature, but their origins in the field of science and technology studies (STS), and the implications of their migration into ERSS, are not well theorized or thoroughly appreciated. We take as our starting point that the STI concept is an offshoot of co-production, the simultaneous production of natural and social order. We resituate STIs in relation to that origin story within co-productionist STS to enhance its analytic power in relation to energy research. We parse STIs along three dimensions of co-productionist analysis: integration, symmetry, and reflexivity. We then contrast the analytic purchase offered by STIs, grounded in co-production, with another popular STS approach, actor-network theory (ANT), by looking at two exemplary cases of the energy transition in the global South.
Through these case studies, centering on the introduction of solar power in Senegal and India, we argue that a better theorized invocation of STIs, as mechanisms of co-production, can detect aspects of sociotechnical transitions that remain obscure unless they are illuminated through the meaning-making dimension of STIs. We use STIs to show that in global transitions to sustainability the discourse of renewable energy has privileged the transition’s material and technological dimensions over its cultural and sociopolitical ones. In particular, the STI lens brings to light alternative visions of sustainable lives based on ideas and practices of renewal that long predated the arrival of solar power, and are at risk of dying in the new political economy of renewables.
The process leading to a net zero carbon economy by mid-century will have massive effects on jobs, labour relations and income distribution. The idea of just transition – that achieving the ambitious objectives to bring climate change under control will only be possible if the transition to a net-zero carbon economy is balanced and just – has evolved in the last four decades from a union initiative to a complex policy framework adopted by international organizations, and also referred to in the COP21 Paris Agreement (UNFCCC, 2015). Building on literature analysis, this article deconstructs the concept of ‘just transition’ by discussing its various interpretations and dimensions and highlighting the role of trade unions in applying it. Based on sectoral case studies, concrete examples from two key sectors of the European economy – energy and automobile – are given, where massive employment transitions are under way and social dialogue plays a key role. Conclusions about the changing role of trade unions and the importance of co-operative industrial relations are drawn.
Grand environmental and societal challenges have drawn increasing attention to system innovation and socio-technical transitions. A recent Deep Transitions framework has provided a comprehensive theory of the co-evolutionary patterns of multiple socio-technical systems over the last 250 years. However, so far the framework has not been subjected to systematic empirical exploration. In this paper we address this gap by exploring the co-evolutionary model linking niche-level dynamics, transitions in single systems and 'great surges of development', as conceptualized by Schot and Kanger (2018) . For this purpose, we conduct a case study on the historical evolution of mass production in the Transatlantic region from 1765 to 1972. Instead of focusing on dominant technologies or common practices the development of mass production is understood as the emergence of a meta-regime, i.e. a set of mutually aligned rules guiding production activities in multiple socio-technical systems. The results broadly confirm the overall model but also enable to extend the Deep Transitions framework by uncovering new mechanisms and patterns in the variation, diffusion and contestation of meta-regimes.
Current sustainability challenges call for transitions in locked-in socio-technical systems. The governance of transitions often remains limited to the cultivation of sustainable 'niche' innovations, however. This paper explores how to handle transitions directionality, i.e. the diversity of possible socio-technical development paths. It reaches beyond hitherto rather abstract and fragmented insights. STS, political-science and systems-evolutionary angles are combined into an integrative framework. Concrete directionality challenges are identified through the analysis of socio-technical multiplicity, divergent normative appraisals and process dynamics. The driverless car transition provides an exemplar case. As highlighted through qualitative evidence from the Dutch Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) sector, common innovation discourses of a 'race to automation' misrepresent the pace and direction of the nascent transition. The transition requires much more than the cultivation of driverless vehicles: Next to the commercial development of vehicle automation, it involves governmental traffic management ambitions and public-private collaboration towards 'cooperative systems'. Other insights on directionality-conscious transitions governance pertain to the sustained synchronization between institutionally diverse actors, and to the changing material conditions for steering. The overall conclusion is that the framework provides a useful lens to explore the governance of directionality in socio-technical transitions. Future studies should explore its usefulness beyond the ITS domain.