Category: Futures

Sustainability Frontiers Conference: Degrowth

This blog is part of a short series written by Laila Mendy, PhD student at NRHU, as she attended the Sustainability Frontiers conference.

The third session of the day, and the topic of the second blog post, relates to postgrowth economics and the alternatives to GDP-focused growth mentalities. Below is a short summary of the panel discussion and reflections.

Mine Islar moderated a discussion between Eric Kemp-Benedict, Jennifer Hinton, and Giorgos Kallis. The session began with an introduction to the idea that degrowth, postgrowth and other “agnostic” ideas may have the potential to close the gap between economic interests and biodiversity. The panelists each presented their understandings of how to approach this potential and the implications of leaving the current economic system in place.

Eric Kemp-Benedict began by explaining how helpful he finds Kate Raworth’s idea of doughnut economics and how it frames human-nature relations in terms of human needs but more than that needed to survive, but enough to flourish. There are, he says, two questions raised by the doughnut framing. The first is “What political and economic systems are consistent with this?” and the second considers “How do we get there?”

GDP has been a useful but incomplete measure for politics and policy-making. Today we know that in many parts of the world people do not have enough to survive, let alone thrive. Meeting their needs, he argued, requires significant development of technologies that must be created, maintained and improved. On the other hand, there is research that demonstrates the limits to how comfortable and happy wealthier parts of the world live. In short, we have some places where people have not enough to live well, and others who have too much. This is coupled with the arbitrary nature of what is calculated within GDP, in terms of labour or work: home-based childcare is not, maintaining the home is not*.

Kemp-Benedict pushed the arbitrary nature of GDP, explaining that while employment rates and gas prices are of immediate interest to people, particularly in terms of inflation as it erodes wealth and steps into the political-economy dimension, stock market inflation is generally not of concern for most people, other than populating the 24 hour news cycle. Based on this assessment, GDP should not be replaced by another similar measure, but rather should reorient the question to understand what ways of living are consistent with sustainability. Political decision-making tools should reflect that reality, rather than this fairly arbitrary measure.

To the second question, he raised the issue of decoupling GDP from material throughput (and therefore environmental impact). If it can not be, then the only direction is through degrowth. However, this has not happened in the past as, seemingly, it is not politically palatable. Therefore, he concludes, other roots might be worth investigating to break the GDP material flow, including other political interventions.

Jennifer Hinton intervened here by explaining how most sustainability researchers approach the fields in terms of meeting needs now and into the future within the ecological boundaries of the planet. This approach, she says, does not clarify the role of the economy in sustainable society. We are living within the context of economic growth as the prevailing dominant narrative. Even in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), economic growth is a key measure of success. Economic growth is seen as necessary to lift people out of poverty, to produce technologies for reduction of environmental impact. There is, here, a profound assumption that society can decouple growth from environmental impact. But, Hinton stated, evidence points out that over the last few decades this has not occurred: the rich have been getting richer, the poor remain in poverty (in a global context) and there is, as of yet, no evidence that the economy can decouple from environmental impacts. By contrast as the economy has grown the environmental condition has worsened.

Hinton moved to the main thesis that economies should be reorganised to not drive for growth, and therefore the field starts with a post-growth ideology. She explained that there is more to postgrowth than degrowth, and gave examples from eco-feminism and ecological economics which pluralises the realm. How does it address sustainability, then, she asked?

Firstly, get rid the assumption that wealth equates happiness, needs could instead be emphasised. Secondly, money is a means not an end and should not be considered a measurement of success. Here she brought up the master servant binary: the economy must be relegated to servant. Third, is to consider methods for meeting needs outside of the market. Hinton gave examples of community sharing, swapping and mutual aid. Importantly, she summarised, postgrowth can entail higher levels of well-being, particularly when the harm of consumerism to both people and planet are understood.

Consumerism is not an instinctual aspect of human nature, she said in reference to the decolonial scholars from the first part of the day, but rather socio- and eco- justice is at the heart of postgrowth mentalities. In such a framing those who do not currently have access to all of their needs would be given the opportunities to increase their consumption, while those who currently live with excess would be required to learn to live with a lot less.

Hinton’s intervention finished with the suggestion that different proposals and interventions, which included democratic decision-making processes, material sufficiency, local production and consumption and share economies. These are concrete initiatives and seeds that exist, though at the margins or in the niche. Could these become mainstream? Well, she concluded, change in complex systems happens at nonlinear rates: “change is already underway, who knows when we might reach a tipping point?” she finished.

Giogos Kallis was the final panelist and pointed out that it had been 50 years since the book “Limits to Growth” had been published and that while many of their models and variables are since out of date – consider, for example, the computing power existing then in comparison to today – much of their models considered resources, food output, population growth rate and built a variety of scenarios. One of these scenarios was considered a business-as-usual future, where business growth and GDP growth would increase. This scenario is more-or-less, he claimed, what we have followed and lived through to today.

Kallis explained that the field of Degrowth finds similar patterns to those described in the Limits to Growth work. It finds that even taking into account the best possible efficiency increase, radically cleaner and greener technologies, these developments are not enough to keep us within the bounds of the system. Rather, they just postpone the inevitable collapse. The only stabilisation scenarios that the field of degrowth can develop considered the combination of technological improvements with the reduction of material output and population growth.

Despite the tricky conclusions from degrowth research, the more politically palatable models developed today, which are both used within the IPCC and in national roadmaps towards Net Zero around the world, add carbon reduction as a variable. Yet, without addressing continued GDP and population growth, they must be underpinned by the rapid development and widespread implementation of negative emissions technologies. This assumption, according to Kallis, however, has been dismissed as highly unlikely by climate scientists around the world.

At this point the panel ended and turned to questions from the audience. The first was directed towards Hinton and asked for more on the idea of turning money to a means from being the ends. Hinton argued that in today’s context money is a measure of success at multiple levels from the household income to GDP. However, money could become one of many means to satisfy needs. She nodded towards the idea of the 9 universal needs, including (but not limited to) subsistence, protection, leisure, freedom. These needs can only be met to some extent by money and material, and in the cases of freedom and leisure chasing money may be more harmful than good. Better means might be to invest in community development, take care of family bonds or connect with surrounding nature.

Kallis followed on from this answer, suggesting that we consider ideas from ecological economics. He proposed the analogy of measuring colour in kilos. However, Kallis was more pessimistic about the idea of change occurring: there is something powerful about monetary force in society, he said, and was not satisfied with the idea of a simple move away from money as ends.

Kemp-Benedict had the last word on this and echoed the idea of nonlinear rates of change, but pulled back to the idea of what creates money. When he hears about the idea of money as an ends, he considers the idea of debt in livelihoods and of monetary valuation. This discussion is about moving away from, what he argued, how money is created by providing loans underpinned by collateral and private property rights.

To pull this conversation into the ongoing work done at CCL regarding societal transformations to sustainable and fair fossil free futures, there are several interesting points. Firstly, each of these researchers agree that change is nonlinear and occurs within different temporalities. Kallis discussed the urgency of addressing climate change while Hinton admitted that societal changes are generally slower.

Secondly, there is the idea of something existing that does not particularly exist in the global level. These seeds and initiatives exist and are growing, yet global carbon emissions continue to rise, GDP continues to grow. Despite the emissions reductions measures within countries and some regions making some impact, on a global scale these are far from sufficient. I would also say that these economies do not exist in a vacuum. In Sweden there might be community share economies and clothes swaps, but this occurs within a society with a robust and growing housing market and loan inflation, and rapidly growing digitalisation.

The final intervention from Kemp-Benedict relates to my challenge of working to overcome delay in change. Processes of incumbency in the global economic structure, surely, would resist such niche efforts to change. Indeed, decades of research has discussed the different strategies used to resist regime change (see this paper, for example). And so too do these researchers sound pessimistic about the likelihood of such small and strongly resisted alternative economies coming to the mainstream.

Each of the researchers sound hopeful, without indicating how they imagine getting there. It almost seems careless or suspended beyond an attempt at answering this issue. I am reminded of Andy Stirling’s ideas of moving away from the idea of technocratic control to care in times of socio-technical transitions and change (See the STEPS center blog here). Perhaps, if such an approach is so common for those working in this field, the idea of overcoming delay is feeding too much into a narrative of control and therefore unhelpful in such rigid structures. Taking a more emancipatory-care approach could instead mean more to nurture the niche and allow change to emerge at its own pace.

*For more on this, the fourth Zennström Professor, Stefania Barca, initiated a project in 2021 addressing this exact issue. Read more here.

This blog is part of a short series written by Laila Mendy, PhD student at NRHU, as she attends the Sustainability Frontiers conference. Click here for part three on Digitalisation

Sustainability Frontiers: Decolonising Sustainability

This blog is part of a short series written by Laila Mendy, PhD student at NRHU, as she attended the Sustainability Frontiers conference.

Opening and Decolonial Perspective on Sustainability Science:

The day began with a demonstration of what much of decolonial scholars have been arguing for: by centring the perspectives and insights from decolonial scholars and indigenous researchers in the sustainability sciences conversation. Vasna Rasamar curated an panel discussion with Professor Lyla Mehta, Professor Bagele Chilisa, and Senior Lecturer Anna-Lill Drugge, all concerned with addressing what they see as a sustaining weakness of the sustainability sciences: the reproduction of colonial dynamics, practises and norms.

Rasamar began by asking each of the speakers to present what they consider to be an ongoing frontier in sustainability. These are summarised shortly below:

From Lyla Mehta: The term “Sustainability” came from German forestry management in the 1800s, which wanted to explore ways to continue resource extraction into the long term. From there it was consolidated and instrumentalised with – and alongside- other colonial practises of territory grabbing, othering and racialised categorisation, and removal of- and restriction of access to- indigenous peoples. Such practices adhere in much mainstream sustainable development today where, in the name of emissions reductions and conservation, indigenous and local communities continue to be restricted from living in their homes. Mehta highlighted instances of these in the REDD+ programme and other climate mitigation measures. In order to recognise that colonial practise is embedded in common socio-envionmental control mechanisms, there are three considerations to take:

  1. Firstly, seeking out hidden ways of knowing and being in this world. What knowledges and practises exist beyond the mainstream?
  2. Countering the narrative that unexploited land is waste. Grasslands, Mehta used as an example, are important contributors to biodiversity in South East Asia, and do not indicate wasted opportunity for afforestation or agricultural development
  3. To consider new ways of doing research: what are the assumptions underpinning much of what we problematise in development studies? Perhaps the grazing animal is contributing to soil health and the local eco-system.

Mehta concluded by explaining that decolonising sustainability science is also about looking at the institutions surrounding academia and considering how relationships and ways of working might be projecting harmful norms. Consider here, for example, the ways in which gender relations, power, race and ethnicity, sexuality, the languages spoken and – of particular relevance to the PhD student in Sweden today – the passports we hold. All these considerations implicate who might be invited to the discussion and how groups are convened.

For Bagele Chilisa the presentation considered how pervasive dogmas in Western thought were restricting people to see beyond certain assumptions of existence and reality. Building from what Mehta had initiated, Chilisa explained how decolonialism must address these dogmas in sustainability as understood in Western terms to not only open up for alternatives but to go beyond.

Firstly, Chilisa explained that Descartes and the idea of the individual could be pinpointed at the base of much practise and understanding in Western academia. The community and the people are forgotten: it is the individual that counts. Such an approach does not take into account the ways in which people are part of their community and part of the environment in which they live. This is problematic as teachings from the fields of Environmental Justice may not be heard beyond concern for the individual.

Secondly, the approaches to sustainability in Western academia can generally be categorised through four main approaches: the post-positivist turn to explain, predict and control; the conservative; the transformative; and the pragmatic.

Thirdly, that the environment is other-ised in Sustainability science, disregarding the essential embedded-ness of people and, therefore, discounting the valuable contributions that the environment can make towards knowledge creation.

Chilisa ended by asking open questions to the audience: what is development and for whom? What does it mean to live a good life? And, more fundamentally, how can we see and understand each other in a system that more and more pushes us as individuals?

The final speaker is Senior-Lecturer in Umeå, focusing on the Sami peoples. Anna-Lill Drugge, offered a similar list of three for the decolonial challenge in Sustainability science. Drugge’s approach focused more specifically on the experience of the Sami in Sweden, but might resonate with other peoples around the world.

The first insight looked at the exploitation of natural resources. Drugge explained that much of the green transition in Sweden poses the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy as the solution to the sustainability and climate issues. However, Drugge points out that too few reflect on which land and which natural resources are chosen in this transition. In the case of wind power, many of the potential areas of interest for development are on indigenous land. Despite the continued dependence on these areas for Sami livelihoods, development often goes ahead. Here, Drugge concludes, it is important to simply raise awareness of ongoing colonial structures in decision-making. Decolonialism is not possible if colonialism is not addressed first.

Secondly, the history of many research fields are problematic and foundational to ongoing conflicts today. Drugge explained that in recent history in Sweden the study of race biology categorised Sami people, separating the mountainous peoples from the forest peoples and contributing to existing conflicts to this day. Recognising the roots of today’s conflicts in historical processes of research was, for Drugge, another important insight for the decolonialism of Sustainability science.

Thirdly Drugge explained that the lack of knowledge meant these challenges will continue in to the future. Much Swedish knowledge of Sami people is based on stereotypes, due to a neglect on the subject in the national curricular. In the long run, these students will work in the green transition of tomorrow, which risk carrying and replicating colonial assumptions into the future.

The second block of the Decolonial session discussed questions posed by the moderator and the audience. The discussion mainly concerned concrete tools, approaches and methodologies to implement decolonial thinking in practise in academia.

Drugge began by admitting that doing is particularly challenging, but the first step is to acknowledge the field and work of indigenous scholars, particularly those whose work concerns relationships. These are not only important in sustainability and in relation to indigenous people, she suggested, but concern research ethics more widely.

Chilisa echoed this by explaining that many of the tools available can help communities and groups avoid the check-boxing so common in sustainability – think, why is the commissioner doing this study and will it actually be used? – and rather looks at the processes and intentions behind them.

Thirdly, Mehta cautioned against thinking in terms of a tool box and a check box, positioning decolonialism as an ongoing processes of self-awareness that should not be turned into another buzzword – not unlike what has happened to sustainability. That said, she went on to suggest methodologies from feminism for methods to raise the voices of the unheard and make visible the invisible, as well as practises from the field of Science and Technology Studies. Within the academic institutions themselves, it is making aware that power imbalances exist and continue to exist when those with the best of intentions can perpetuate inequality infrastructures.

In relation to my own doctoral work, much from this discussion has resonated with me. I am currently working on the idea of “overcoming delay” in the quest to reach Net Zero 2045 in Sweden. Considering recent review on the thirty years of political and scientific work done on climate change and the failure to bend the emissions curve, this feels like an important piece of work to contribute towards overcoming inertia and to avoid a tobacco industry-like conflict with climate policy-making. But there are deeper challenges in taking such a stance towards the future and towards the goal itself.

Firstly, the idea of overcoming delay towards a future assumes certain futures are viable and desirable, and that others are not. To overcome delay towards a certain future is, arguably, to depoliticise it. I think this is problematic because it questions the democratic nature of futures-making. With such an urgent need for emissions reductions, slowing down and questioning the idea of whose contribution towards such goals and targets is important. It indicates which voices are excluded and which injustices may be carried in to the future for the good of action on climate change?

Such a cause for concern in terms of time is strengthened by the implication of place in the goal of Net Zero itself. Climate neutrality indicates a necessary shift in infrastructure, which for Sweden may well mean a continued expansion of renewable energy development into Sami land. It also suggests that off-setting emissions beyond Sweden could perpetuate certain colonial mindsets about land access globally, its usage and whose claims to land are more important.

I am not sure how to reconcile the decolonial lens with the urgency narrative of climate action. However, the discussion this morning gave much food for thought on this conflict.

This blog is part of a short series written by Laila Mendy, PhD student at NRHU, as she attends the Sustainability Frontiers conference. Click here for part two on Degrowth

Sustainability Frontiers: Digitalisation and Sustainability Transitions

The fourth session at Sustainability Frontiers discussed Digitalisation and Sustainability Transitions, and will be the third in the series of blog posts about this conference written by Laila Mendy, PhD student at NRHU, Uppsala University. The first can be read here and the second post can be read here.

Somya Joshi moderated a conversation between Stefan Daume, Maja Essebo and Andrea Owe. Joshi introduced the hope and parallel concern about the relationships between technological development and innovation and the environment. She then invited each speaker to present their approach to this issue.

Stefan Daume began on the idea of digitalisation from the perspective of disruptive technologies and AI for Sustainability science. He pointed out the meta-quality of the conversation and how the online conference structure can facilitate fantastic connections around the globe more quickly and without attributed transport emissions.

Daume’s research spans the mature forms of technologies to the niche and cutting edge. He suggested that the internet acts as a mature tool for sustainability and pointed towards Greta Thunberg’s social movement enabled through the availability of social media. He considered open access research as another form.

To the more cutting edge innovations, he introduces the idea of AI, block chain and crypto. AI, he argues, has been around since the era of Alan Turing. Today’s machine learning, however, has the gigantic accessibility of computing powers available in the cloud. That said, these systems are not just virtual. He explained that there is an embodied and material element as these consume resources to run and are often designed to serve existing dominant interests.

The second intervention was given by Maja Essebo, who came from the point of storytelling and looking at how algorithmic technologies are not only disseminating stories but also storytelling themselves. A side note was given here, though, is that this is more about machine learning than AI.

Looking at the elements of storytelling you have character creation, the plot, events connected by relationships, place and more. Character creation is where machine learning technologies get particularly interesting. These technologies are interested in a group of people to understand what common characteristics occur within certain sets of the population. An example was given that individuals who liked KitKat pages were more likely to join anti-semitic hate groups. Such a connection would not necessarily be imagined by a human, but a machine noticed this trend.

Her conclusion was that algorithmic processes are performing character creation by noticing these trends and connections. But she is not sure how. These technologies are finding these connections in a black box. They are given input instructions such as “go look, go see, go search”, but how they solve that problem is not really clear. What the creator thinks is a fairly clear task can have wider interpretations by the machine.

There are two reactions from Sustainability scientists when they learn about the scale of stories these technologies are creating: interest and disgust. They might want to stay away from these technologies but, she concluded, the algorithms will not stay away from them.

The final presentation was given by Andrea Owe, who explained that the biases of humans are fed into AI. She started from the point that sustainability has complex socio-political associations and is more than a natural or technological issue. Much sustainability science is done from an anthropocentric approach, she claimed, which posits that humans are distinct and more important than the rest of the natural world. With that she argued that AI discourse needs to break away from those systems of thought.

Owe’s concern was that non-human animals and the natural environment is neglected in the field of AI ethics, which as of yet has mainly focused on the social implications of AI structures. The non-human is not considered in concepts of justice, but only appear to some extent as beneficiary of sustainability. This is a significant blind spot when developing AI for sustainability as it is neglecting how the environment is considered in those systems.

The presentation concluded by reiterating the concern in terms of environmental footprint: when selecting which AI to pursue a footprint might indicate that certain forms of AI should not be developed in the first place. This requires full and thorough life-cycle analysis during development stage. She finished by reiterating that while sexism and racism is perpetuated by AI and is, to some extent, being addressed, the abuse of nature must be addressed in research.

After the panellists presented their opening statements they were given the opportunity to respond to a number of questions. Much was said about the idea of agency in story telling: that it is not full agency, but that there are aspects within the black box issue. Daume continued by explaining that inbuilt biases certainly exist and in multiple forms including training data bias, transfer bias, and also interpretation bias by the people using the AI. Owe explained the challenge of interjecting ethics in systems we are still struggling to grapple with. She summarised in ways that echoed the decolonial scholars from the first session: ethics is not a to do list, and ethics washing is widespread. For ecological and environmental ethics in AI, the research is very new and underdeveloped.

A second theme of questions emerged from the audience Q and A which asked about whether – and how – AI can change human-nature relations. Owe pointed to incredible work being done by indigenous communities around the world who are developing their own AI based on their own data.

My own question was raised at this point, which concerned the reconciliation of technological acceleration with the degrowth of the economy. Owe suggested she was pessimistic about decoupling technological innovation from environmental impact. Essebo, however, offered a more optimistic framing, suggesting that these technologies can enable economic transitions at a more rapid rate. Daume reiterated this in terms of broadening access and participation but cautioned that the platforms on which these tools rely are provided for by companies who are not motivated by sustainability. They also, he said, have long been recognised for their emissions but there are now some transitions to more sustainable practices such as submerged data centres.

This was the third in a series of blog posts about the Sustainability Frontiers conference. Click here to read the fourth on Inner Transformation and Imaginaries.

Transforming the Future and Societal Metamorphosis

Ahead of the Climate Change Leadership Friday event in the COP26 Nordic Pavilion, titled “Fair Climate Transformation Governance”, Laila Mendy at CCL reflects on the concept of metamorphosis.

Climate change and the need for just societal transitions to low carbon economies are not a new topic for us here at Climate Change Leadership. We hear all the time about the importance of societal transition to mitigate severe climate change, but transition has not grasped the more transformative nature of rapid reductions in emissions and lifestyle changes needed to reach this goal. How, though, might we transform into something which has already been decided? We look to nature for inspiration: Metamorphosis.

Perhaps this transformation could be considered in terms of societal metamorphosis. We know the quantified end goals and limitations that we need to follow in our transformations, whether they are mainly guided by the science of planetary boundaries, of carbon budgets or science-based climate laws. Here in Sweden the present end goal of our societal transformation means reaching Net Zero 2045. But the act of transformation into this fossil free future has yet to be decided and described. Contributing pathways have been proposed by industry in Fossil Free Sweden, and midway targets have been committed to by the Swedish Government and parliament. But the collective gathering of roadmaps and pathways in order to frame and name this transformative process, itself, leaves something to be desired. Transformation infers an openness that does not quite fit in this context.

When it comes down to it, the inevitably important but still nitty-gritty debates over priorities and rates of mitigation are fiery, particularly when justice and equity principles are centred. Electric cars are an important solution, but the mining of cobalt for batteries have dangerous consequences for human rights (read more on Nature-based solutions are an option, but access and property rights within the broader implications of off-setting can be problematic. The responsibilities of wealthier countries, with higher cumulative emissions, to reduce emissions rates faster is likewise an issue for climate justice debates. For example in Sweden, whose Net Zero goal in 2045 is 25 years ahead of the goal recently declared for India, there is now pressure on the government to act faster. In essence, the process of societal transformation, like the metamorphosis of the butterfly, is a turbulent, bloody and challenging time guided by core principles and ends.

To stretch the metaphor further, metamorphosis is also the aspect which separates juvenile and mature specimens. They occupy different habitats and engage in radically different activities. Rejecting the categorisations of countries in as mature and juvenile, which is highly problematic in terms of climate justice and the historical responsibility of climate change, it is the separation that interests me. In the international climate politics sphere, the concept demonstrates how wealthier countries who may afford a quick metamorphosis have a responsibility to support developing countries with their transition or risk broadening a divide, continue to rely on fossil fuels and risk exclusion from the full potentials that new, green, technologies and 1.5 degree living might have to offer.

The open-ended term of “transforming the future” does not suggest an unknown future in the landscape of Net Zero, Fossil Free Sweden’s road-maps, and planetary boundaries. A metamorphosis, which describes a process of transforming into something already known, may offer a better description of the process ahead of us.

This reflection is written ahead the event Climate Change Leadership is organising at the COP26 Nordic Pavilion. Here we ask how societies may transform in order to fit within carbon budgets? The seminar describes Paris Agreement-based carbon budgets as a foundation for discussing the merits and shortcomings of various governance strategies, including potential COP26 outcomes, with a focus on social fairness and effectiveness in meeting climate targets. Key speakers include our own senior lecturer, Mikael Karlsson, and previous Zennström professors Doreen Stabinsky and Kevin Anderson. The event is facilitated by Jens Ergon and Isabel Baudish. Join us in CEMUS Friday 10.00 – 11.30 (CET) to watch the livestream or watch online here:

Incumbency and the Future in Climate Action Collaborations

What roles do large organisations play in climate action collaborations? What futures become possible? What does it mean for realising Sweden’s climate goals?

Fossilfree Sweden had their Fossil Free Competitive conference earlier this week where they celebrated the follow up on their 22 roadmaps. The conclusion was made that industries had ramped up their efforts for emissions reduction, but that these still did not meet the required pace for transitioning in line with Sweden’s goal to be Net Zero by 2045 (read more here).

You can watch the conference in full here:

Incumbency Leadership: A challenge for transforming the future?

The roadmaps have been discussed in terms of futures orientations before and it was concluded in a recent study that the “Techno-Optimist” and “Ecological Mordernisation” perceptions of the future were far more popular for political parties and industry leaders alike (read more here). More radical imaginaries, such as “Systems Change” and “Technological Disruption” were far less common. Their findings further indicate how more ambitious goals for climate action are stilted by a difficulty envisioning a future beyond fossil-dependence, let alone radically transformed futures beyond capitalism.

The idea of incumbent agenda-setting climate action, particularly under such a term as “Fossil Free Competitiveness”, demands looking at what futures are being produced through these mechanisms. Is this simply a competition between industries to become climate change leaders and realise Sweden’s Net Zero Future by 2045? Or is there something more to be inferred by roadmaps towards realising desirable incumbent futures?

Fossil Free Roadmaps: calculating wider impacts, benefits and costs?

Beyond the futures narratives and the socio-political implications of these roadmaps, these roadmaps should also be discussed in terms of wider societal costs and impacts. What will jobs look like in the future? Is there a Swedish workforce with the skills and competences needed for these transitioned industries? What infrastructure development is required and at what pace? How might the Swedish public respond to these changes – is this viable?

Watch this space!

Democracies that fail to act on climate change face ‘existential’ threat

Daniel Lindvall is interviewed by Thomson Reuters News foundation. Read the full article here.

The interview is about a new paper Daniel has written with IDEA about “Democracy and the Challenges of Climate Change“.

Daniel Lindvall presented his paper at the IDEA webinar earlier this week, where the findings indicate that democratic countries’ failures to act on climate change can lead towards an existential threat to their democratic institutions. New ways to engage the public with democratic participation in climate change policy development is key to counter these risks. As Daniel Lindvall claims, scientists and scientific expertise do not hold all the answers and experiences and perspectives from the public can be used in the democratic process. You can watch the IDEA webinar here:

Artikel om framtida generationers rättigheter

Daniel Lindvall, forskare i Klimatledarskap, har skrivit artikeln Demokratin inför klimatkrisen. Kan framtida generationers fri- och rättigheter säkras?, för kommitten Demokratin 100 års framåtblickande antologi om Sveriges demokrati och dess olika aspekter. Läs artikeln här

Artikeln beskriver hur demokratins fortlevnad är nära förbunden med dess förmåga att snabbt få ner utsläppen av växthusgaser och att han[1]tera olika klimatkonsekvenser. Att värna demokratin är också att värna om klimatet och framtiden. Vi har redan fått känna på jordens reaktioner på människans utsläpp av växthusgaser – värmeböljor, skogsbränder och översvämningar. Detta i kombination med stigande havsnivåer och förlusten av biolo[1]gisk mångfald kommer att påverka hela vårt samhällssystem och vår existens. Det handlar bland annat om en generations[1]överskridande orättvisa, men också om hur demokratin kan användas för ett långsiktigt beslutsfattande.


Find recorded lectures, podcasts and reports with members of the Climate Change Leadership initiative.

Follow our youtube channel for talks and events with the Climate Change Leadership initiative at Uppsala University. Follow the CEMUS youtube channel for associated talks and events.

Find resources and reports for climate justice and Just Transition here.

Find resources and reports for the Swedish Carbon Budget work here.

Find resources and reports for the work on universities and education here.

Föreläsning: ”Laggards or leaders (bromskloss eller ledare); Paris, 2°C & the role for Sweden” av Kevin Anderson. Den hölls på Hotel Lysekil den 9 mars och publik var människor som hade samlats för att protestera mot Preems utbyggnad av oljeraffinaderiet i Lysekil. Dagen efter deltog Kevin Anderson som vittne i Mark- och miljööverdomstolens förhandlingar om Preems ansökan om utbyggnad. Mars 2020.

Seminarium: Fossilfri välfärd och negativa utsläpp – vision, kollision eller tomma ord? Den 11 februari 2020 samlades forskare och beslutsfattare för att ta sig an dessa två centrala idéer i den aktuella klimatpolitiken: fossilfri välfärd och negativa utsläpp. Isak Stoddard, doktorand hos CCL och NRHU, var med i panel diskussionen.

Report: Internationalisation and Sustainability The report below provides a brief exploration of the relationship between internationalisation and sustainability agendas in the contemporary university. It reports on a short programme of desk research by the team and a workshop bringing together university leadership, students, faculty and administrative staff. It identifies key tensions, possibilities, and routes towards achieving more sustainable internationalisation strategies in universities. The report has been compiled rapidly to respond to current debates and is intended as the basis for wider discussion.

Transforming Universities for the Future keynote lecture by Keri Facer at the International Association of Universities Conference. December 2019.

En koldioxidbudget för Umeå: Vår del av Paris avtalet. Med Aaron Tuckey och Martin Wetterstedt. October 2019.

Watch Professor Keri Facer’s inaugural lecture on Renewing the European University’s Mission in a Changing Climate. An early version of the text of this talk is also available here. October 2019.

Universitetens roll för en hållbar värld – omvärldens förväntningar. Almedalen lecture and panel discussion with Keri Facer, Göran Enander, Ingrid Petersson, Matilda Strömberg, Lotta Ljungqvist, and Carl Johan Sundberg. July 2019.

Climate vision – what is the role of universities in combating climate change? Almedalen panel hosted by Keri Facer with Eva Åkesson, Emma Nohrén, and Matilda Ernkrans. July 2019.

Climate change leadership – perspectives from science, industry and politics. Almedalen panel hosted by Keri Facer with Anna Rutgersson, Åsa Wikforss, John Hassler, Klas Palm, and Kristina Persson. July 2019.

Four-part interview with Keri Facer, on the role of the future, the richness of the meanwhile, and desirable futures at the Constructing Social Futures Conference 2019 for Futuuri magazine. June 2019.

Sustainability Talk on Campus Gotland, Uppsala University by Keri Facer. Building a University for the Common Good. March 2019.

Watch a short film: Professor Kevin Anderson on Living within our carbon budget: the role of politics, technology and personal action

A Democracy Now! broadcast with Kevin Anderson: World’s Richest Must Radically Change Lifestyles to Prevent Global Catastrophe. From the United Nations Climate Summit in Katowice, Poland. December 2018.

Sweden’s carbon budget challenge – turning Paris’ aspirations into local climate action Part 1 and Part 2. A lecture and panel discussion with Kevin Anderson, Agneta Green, Anders Wijkman, and Karin Sundby. July 2018.

The Swedish Carbon Cycle 2018 with Kevin Anderson.

From Paris to Sweden: 2° C, integrity, and the climate law, Kevin Anderson talk in Halmstad. June 2018.

ClimateExistence Conference: The Science, Politics and Culture of Climate Change – Beyond a Climate of Fear by Kevin Anderson followed by a dialogue between Vanessa Andreotti, Jens Holm, Anja Fjellgren Walkeapaa and Kevin Anderson, hosted by Sanna Gunnarsson, intervention by Klimatriksdagen. May 2018.

Kevin Anderson on Climate change and the need to change behaviour in the West. Research and the Sustainable Development Goals at the Danish Institute for International Studies. 26 April 2018.

Kevin Anderson on Climate change and economic growth: Can they be managed together? From Klimatriksdagen seminarium. February 6, 2018.

Kort intervju: Kevin Anderson om flygets utsläpp och alternativa fakta. February 2018.

Kevin Anderson: Revealing the naked emperor – Paris, 2° & carbon budgets. Talk at SR and SVT-event, November 2017.

A Democracy Now! broadcast with Kevin Anderson: Our Socio-Economic Paradigm Is Incompatible With Climate Change Objectives. From the United Nations Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany. November 2017.

Quit the loose climate talk and let’s get serious! A talk between Kevin Anderson and Hugh Hunt. Climate Matters show live from COP-23 in Bonn, Germany. November 2017.

Kevin Anderson discusses negative emissions at UNFCCC with Glen Peters, Corinne Le Quéré, and Youba Sokona. November 2017.

Kevin Anderson and Isak Stoddard on Carbon Budget and Pathways to a fossil free future in Järfälla Kommun. October 25, 2017.

Podcast: Transition for beginners – How not to fly with Kevin Anderson, Radio Luftbalett, October 27, 2017.

Leader or Laggard? Reviewing Sweden’s climate and sustainability agenda . A lecture and panel discussion from Almedalen 2017 with Kevin Anderson, Ranjula Bali Swain, Hanna Hansson, and Erik Westholm.

Are universities making the world worse? Education and research in an age of climate change . A panel discussion from Almedalen 2017 with Kevin Anderson, Josefin Wangel Weithz, and Johanna van Schaik Dernfalk.

Sustainable development dilemma – why are facts not enough to convince? A panel discussion with Kevin Anderson, Henrik Hamrén, Maria Osbeck, and Anna Rudels from Almedalen 2017.

Climate Catastrophe or Societal Transition – What is Needed of Politicians and Individuals? An interview with Kevin Anderson and Stigbjörn Ljunggren. Almedalen 2017.

Courage and Climate: An Interview with Kevin Anderson. Interviewed by Paul Campion and Stephen Tuscher, students at the Newman Institute, for Civic Courage in Theory and Practice, a course taught by Brian Palmer. November 2016.

Climate Change: A Parisian Tale of Triumph and Tragedy. Uppsala University Lecture in Climate Change Leadership August 2016 with Kevin Anderson.

Education, Sustainable Development and the Challenges of Climate Change . CEMUS Spring Semester Introduction lecture 2016 with Professor Doreen Stabinsky.

Find external resources linked to people and groups doing inspiring work.

Sister’s Academy develops new art-based research methods to collect data. Based in Denmark.

Emergence Network is a research inquiry into the otherwise via practices that trouble the traditional boundaries of agency and possibility.

Climate and Mind explores the relationship between climate disruption, human behaviour, and human experience.

Bifrost is an environmental humanities intervention on climate change bridging nature and culture, science and art, understanding and action, challenges and solutions.

Gesturing towards decolonial futures is a portfolio of artistic, pedagogical and cartographic experiments that seek to not only imagine but also enact the world differently.

Ecoversities network explores what the university might look like if it were at the service of our diverse ecologies, cultures, economies, spiritualities and Life within our planetary home.

Dark Mountain is a radical project looking for other stories that can help us make sense of a time of disruption and uncertainty.

A Green New Deal Beyond Growth

On the 3rd of November Riccardo Mastini joined the CEMUS research Forum via zoom. He started off with a very appreciated talk followed by a nice and interesting discussion. The talk is available below:

Riccardo summarizes the talk as follows:

The emerging political discourse of the Green New Deal postulates the need for an active role of the State in the economy to drive the ecological transition by deploying the power of public investment and coordination. However, a truly transformative Green New Deal must also move beyond the ‘growth paradigm’ by decreasing energy and material use in affluent countries, decommodifying the basic necessities of life, and democratizing economic production. The paper, with the same name as the talk, is available here

Riccardo is a PhD Candidate at Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Autonomous University of Barcelona. He is a policy advisor for the international campaign Green New Deal for Europe. He is also a member of the academic collective Research & Degrowth and of the international network Wellbeing Economy Alliance. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and LinkedIn.

Helena Fornstedt, Coordinator Cemus Research Forum

Low carbon energy narratives and futures in Africa: Dissonant times?

On the 20th of Oct 2020, Yacob Mulugetta had a seminar at the CEMUS research Forum, titled “Low carbon energy narratives and futures in Africa: Dissonant times?”. Mulugetta is Professor of Energy and Development Policy at University College in London and among many other things he was Coordinating Lead Author of the Energy Systems chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report.

It was a very interesting talk and it raised many questions which led our discussions to last well into lunch. Professor Mulugetta’s talk is available here:

You also find his own summary of the talk below:

It is widely recognized that energy production and use is both a key reflection of the socio-economic landscape as well as a major driver of the climate challenge. Africa finds itself at the heart of a momentous global energy and climate conversation. The energy and development reality across the region evokes deep emotions about the importance of doing something about the scandal of energy poverty. As if this was not complex enough, there is a call for the region to chart out a new and responsible energy pathway: one that does not impact on the global climate system. To this end, numerous real world experiments are taking place across Africa on various ‘energy futures’ to simultaneously unlock local (and national) energy potentials and deal with major global challenges. What is also emerging is how ideas around the ‘energy-climate challenge’ play out is highly dependent on the multi-level political context and dynamics, and is thus deeply influenced by competing framings and narratives. These dominant and competing accounts, in turn, interact to shape the specific interventions and policies. This presentation/discussion will explore the dominant narratives that are shaping the African energy landscape, how these narratives are constructed and mobilized, and discuss ways to open alternative and energy possibilities that protect the wellbeing of poor communities and their climate. The talk will also sketch out the research and policy opportunities in this area.

Helena Fornstedt, Coordinator, CEMUS Research Forum

Dr Claire Craig: Science and Futures in Government

Governments may have less immediate power than they used to but, in matters large and small, someone somewhere often has to make a decision that will affect many lives. The Ministers making those decisions are human too, and what we know about how science and futures thinking operate in government can tell us a lot about their place in wider public debates. Making decisions today, based on evidence from the past, in order to change the future: what could possibly go wrong?

Clair Craig joins us in Kollaboratoriet in early June. Head over to youtube to follow the full lecture.

Follow our youtube channel for more clips from this lecture, and for other talks and events with the Climate Change Leadership initiative at Uppsala University.

Dr Claire Craig CBE is Chief Science Policy Officer at the Royal Society. Previously Claire led the Government Office for Science, and has worked for three UK Government Chief Scientific Advisors. She was awarded a CBE for her work on Foresight, the UK’s science-based strategic futures programme, and was a member of Faculty at the World Economic Forum. Her career includes periods at McKinsey & Co and the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit. She has been pre-Elected Provost of the Queen’s College, Oxford, taking up post in summer 2019. Her first book “How does government listen to scientists?” was published by Palgrave in August 2018, and she began life as a geophysicist.