European regions heavily dependent on coal or carbon intensive industries are facing structural change. The transformation can only succeed with the support of the population.
European regions heavily dependent on coal or carbon intensive industries are facing structural change. The transformation can only succeed with the support of the population. Adobe Stock/maresaStocksy

Headline: Identifying positive tipping points towards clean energy transitions in carbon intensive regions (Tipping+)

Duration:
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Europe's future energy system will rely on renewable sources. This may have serious effects on the economies and social structures of regions in which coal and other carbon-intensive industries play a significant role. The transition to a climate-friendly future threatens to undermine the economic prosperity and social fabrics of these affected regions. Efforts to minimize adverse effects and help affected regions adapt will be key to the success of the energy transition and help to build public acceptance. In the TIPPING+ project, researchers focus on the flipside of the energy transition and investigate how coal- and carbon-intensive regions can be transformed without triggering social or economic decline.

In TIPPING+, the researchers work to gain a better understanding of societal transition processes at the regional level, drawing on and further developing the concept of "social tipping points" to investigate the role of regions in securing successful transitions. Previous research has focused on biophysical tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in the state of a particular system, for example the climate system. A social science perspective on this concept is currently lacking. To fill this gap, this project will investigate which kinds of tipping interventions could generate fast systemic transformations towards positive futures. The purpose of this project is to determine:

  • Why and when do coal- and carbon-intensive regions flip into fundamentally different development trajectories and embrace a low-carbon and prosperous future?
  • What are the effects of such fundamental changes on the livelihoods and the sustainability of regional economies and social-ecological systems?
  • Why are such transitions sometimes successful, pushing regions onto low-carbon, economically and socially prosperous paths, yet unsuccessful in other cases?

The Energy Transition Dynamics Group leads the policy work package of TIPPING+, investigating the role of policy interventions to bring about positive social tipping points: which measures work in which context(s)? The IASS researchers will lead a case study to explain the regionally different outcomes of the transition away from coal in a set of western German cities and regions. Their work will support a set of over 20 regional case studies of past and ongoing transitions in Europe and abroad. This research will shed light on decisive events and processes, but also help to prevent undesirable outcomes such as economic and social decline, or the rise of populism and anti-democratic attitudes.

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 884565.