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The world needs to transition to clean energy. But this massive transformation runs up against political obstacles. Local governments, national political parties, and corporations are obstructing the clean energy transition. And yet there is bipartisan support for communities on the front lines of the energy transition to receive compensation and investment. This chapter introduces the idea that these policies face credibility challenges and questions about local economic benefits. Next, we connect this discussion around the climate impasse with earlier economic transitions due to globalization, automation, national parks, and environmental protections. Finally, we argue that top-down approaches miss these credibility concerns. Instead, a bottom-up process of listening to impacted communities is crucial to unlock the climate impasse.
Why is the world not moving fast enough to solve the climate crisis? Politics stand in the way, but experts hope that green investments, compensation, and retraining could unlock the impasse. However, these measures often lack credibility. Not only do communities fear these policies could be reversed, but they have seen promises broken before. Uncertain Futures proposes solutions to make more credible promises that build support for the energy transition. It examines the perspectives of workers, communities, and companies, arguing that the climate impasse is best understood by viewing the problem from the ground up. Featuring voices on the front lines such as a commissioner in Carbon County deciding whether to welcome wind, executives at energy companies searching for solutions, mayors and unions in Minnesota battling for local jobs, and fairgoers in coal country navigating their uncertain future, this book contends that making economic transitions work means making promises credible.
The concluding chapter brings together key insights from each of the preceding chapters, reflecting on the analytical added value that a global political economy perspective has provided with regard to an understanding of energy transitions. The last part of the chapter speculates on possible pathways to change in light of the preceding analysis, concluding with the need to bring about shifts in power (given the title of the book) – not just transitions in technology, finance and production – and institutional reforms, however these might be shaped.
In this chapter, I explore the destabilising role of social mobilisation and cultural shifts, in creating ruptures and generating demands for alternative energy systems and in actually doing the work of transition and wider transformative change by building alternative pathways. I briefly trace early struggles over energy systems from the London smogs and creation of the UK Factories Act during the industrial revolution, through the long histories of indigenous forms of activism against extractivism, to contemporary battles for energy and climate justice, and resistance to new infrastructures, projects and policies that further embed rather than disrupt the fossil fuel economy. I point to how mobilisations have sought to challenge existing political economies and distributions of power, as well as to construct alternative ones. I explore the interrelationships between strategies then describe the rich ecology of resistance, including lobbying, litigation and direct action, pressuring all parts of systems of production, finance and governance, as well as seeding alternatives for incumbent actors to crush or ignore, co-opt or replicate and learn from, or even support and scale up.
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