5.5 Transition initiatives

There are many alternative suggestions for changes to the global economy – a range of ‘green manifestos’, ‘new green orders’ and similar. They do, however, share many common themes, some of which have been explored above. However, all involve some form of transition, often to a post-petroleum economy to reduce emissions while retaining viable economic systems and avoiding sudden catastrophic changes associated with large unmitigated climatic and economic instabilities.

At a community or town scale, a transition initiative is a group of people working together to tackle peak oil and climate change by addressing the question ‘How do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of peak oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of climate change)?’ To do so involves working through a process of:

  • awareness raising

  • networking with existing community groups, local government and other transition initiatives

  • forming subgroups to look at key areas, such as food, energy, transport, health and economics

  • starting projects aimed at building people's understanding of resilience, carbon issues and community engagement

  • eventually launching an ‘Energy Descent Action Plan’ with a 15- to 20-year timescale.

The approach recognises two key points:

  • much creativity, ingenuity and adaptability was used on the way up the energy slope, and there's no reason for us not to do the same on the way back down

  • collective planning and action, if undertaken early enough, can create a lifestyle that's more connected to our environment and community than the petroleum-based globalised version we have now.

Thus, a key aspect of transition is that it integrates climate change and peak oil by acknowledging that climate change makes carbon reduction essential, peak oil makes it inevitable and transition initiatives make it feasible. Thus, changing the global economy links to local initiatives and vice versa.

On a national scale, ZeroCarbonBritain suggests linking energy production with economic transition and emissions reduction in such a way that allows Britain to eliminate emissions from fossil fuels within 20 years and breaking our dependence on imported energy. This would need to be part of international action, but broadly speaking would be approached within a C&C framework using ‘tradable energy quotas’, halving energy demand and greatly increasing the use of renewables.

Activity 16

Visit the Transition Towns Wiki to find your nearest ‘official’ transition community. If you live in or near one, what aspects of transition were you aware of? If you don't live in or near a transition town, try this link to see whether your community is at an earlier transition stage. Still nothing near you? Have a look at this link in practice, how might you begin in your community?

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5.4 Contraction and convergence

6 Technological innovation