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TIPPING+

Enabling Positive Tipping Points towards clean-energy transitions in Coal and Carbon Intensive Regions (CCIRs)

funded under H2020 Grant Agreement No. 884565

Project summary

Why at one or several points in time do Coal and Carbon Intensive Regions (CCIR) flip into fundamentally different development trajectories and embrace clean-energy transformations? TIPPING+ will focus on the critical concept of Social-Ecological Tipping Points (SETPs) to inquire how a much more robust scientific understanding of the socioeconomic, psychological, cultural, gender and political processes leading to SETPs can be used to support clean-energy transitions in CCIR or prevent catastrophic or undesirable outcomes in other ones (e.g. populism and anti-democratic attitudes). TIPPING+ will carry out empirical analyses and advance the state-of-the-art on both negative and positive tipping points. However, a main focus of TIPPING+ will concern the participatory co- production of knowledge on the driving forces and deliberate tipping interventions for positive tipping points toward energy transitions in European CCIR. A typology based on at least 20 regional case studies will be generated with an early engagement of key practitioners examining: 1) New trends, changes and impacts of energy transitions on demographic structures and geographical distribution patterns in gender, migration and youth 2) Community, gender and psychological factors related to energy transitions 3) Policy interventions and governance factors 4) Economic transformations on employment, distributional welfare and energy and natural resources. TIPPING+ builds on the latest social science applied to Transition Theory (Tàbara et al, 2019) which shows that enabling deliberate positive tipping points in development trajectories depend on: a) Collective visions and narratives which frame and provide actionable meaning b) The kinds of transformative capacities to achieve these visions and c) Key strategies, solutions and socio-technical innovations derived from such capacities. International cooperation will also be established with non-European partners in Indonesia, Australia and Canada.

Objectives

The aim of the TIPPING+ project is to generate an unique transdisciplinary social science analytical framework to respond to the following intertwined questions:

  • Why at one or several points in time Coal and Carbon Intensive Regions (CCIRs) flip into fundamentally different development trajectories and embrace low carbon, clean-energy transformations?
  • What are the actual effects of such fundamental changes on the livelihoods and the sustainability of regional economies and social-ecological systems?
  • How can the knowledge from the recent past about the multiple social-ecological processes leading to sudden and fundamental changes in these regions be used to identify the most effective tipping interventions that enact low-carbon, clean-energy transitions in other regions?

In order to provide empirically-grounded and robust knowledge to respond to these questions, the TIPPING+ project will produce a step-wise advance in the scientific understanding of the critical concept of Social-Ecological Tipping Points (SETPs) to show how a much more robust and empirically-grounded theory of SETPs can be applied to support successful clean-energy transitions in CCIRs.

TIPPING+ will identify, characterise and carry out empirical analyses to advance the state of the art on both negative and positive tipping points supporting the transformative capacity of regions as well as advancing Transition Theory. A main focus of TIPPING+ will concern the co-coproduction of knowledge concerning the driving forces and deliberate interventions leading to the emergence of positive tipping points towards clean-energy transitions in CCIRs. An integrated knowledge framework, based on the insights from at least 20 regional case studies will be generated with an early engagement of regional key practitioners and stakeholders from these case studies. The aim being to characterise and explain the decisive events, processes, major systems’ transformations and the effects of these transformations affecting the transitioning of European CCIRs toward clean energy development; but also, to prevent the rise of undesirable outcomes like the rise of populism and anti-democratic attitudes or path dependencies in carbon-intensive regions.

TIPPING+ will explore four major operational objectives:

    • Objective 1: Identify, quantify, and evaluate different dimensions and indicators in human-geography, social, policy, environmental, and economic domains that characterise the emergence of SETPs in the form of fundamental changes in CCIRs from a transitions-oriented interdisciplinary social science focusing on regional social-ecological systems.
    • Objective 2: Explore the key cumulative processes, capacities, and socio-structural forces in CCIRs that lead to positive or negative tipping points in energy transitions considering different regional challenges, opportunities and configurations.
    • Objective 3: Co-develop socially acceptable regional future visions up to 2030 to support more durable governance arrangements and strategic goals for CCIRs in line with broader goals of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework, the Energy Union, and Global Stocktake with relevant actors.
    • Objective 4: Identify critical tipping interventions and devise practical transformation strategies in specific CCIRs to potentially reach future visions and promote regional sustainability learning and awareness of positive tipping points in education, governance, and planning processes.

Key cross-cutting dimensions and interactions explored to advance the current social science interdisciplinary knowledge about the occurrence of SETPs will include:

      • New trends, changes, and impacts of energy transitions on demographic structures and geographical distribution patterns, namely in gender, migration and youth.
      • Community, gender, psychological factors related to energy transitions, including those of social conventions and in public opinion trends and communication.
      • Policy interventions and governance factors.
      • Economic transformations on employment, distributional welfare, and in the stocks and flows of energy and natural resources.

Concept & Approach

CONCEPT

TIPPING+ builds on the latest contributions in transdisciplinary social science applied to Transition Theory, which shows that enabling deliberate positive tipping points in development trajectories depend on three main components, all to be explored in the TIPPING+ case studies:

  1. Collective visions and narratives which frame and provide actionable meaning.
  2. The kinds of transformative capacities created to achieve those visions.
  3. The types of strategies and solutions including new socio-technical innovations derived from such capacities.

TIPPING+ will provide an empirical in-depth social science understanding of fundamental changes in socio-demographic, geographical, psychological, cultural, political, and economic patterns of interaction which give rise to the emergence of Social-Ecological Tipping Points (SETPs), both positive and negative in relation to socio-energy regional systems. Such empirical and theoretical insights will shed new light on the interdependencies between changes in regional socio-cultural structures and the technological, regulatory and investment-related requirements for embracing (or failing to embrace) low-carbon, clean-energy and competitive development pathways in the selected regions. Specifically, the TIPPING+ project will explore, both in an empirical and theoretical way, the multiple cross-cutting issues related to socio-demographic, geographical, cultural, political and economic processes and dynamics leading to the emergence of SETPs by carrying out the following tasks:

  1. Further characterise CCIRs by including both regions characterised by upstream energy extractive industries (coal and fossil fuels) and the downstream energy-intensive sector and services and to identify the main drivers for the emergence of positive and negative social-ecological tipping points in these regions.
  2. Identify key socio-economic structures, trends, and changes, taking into consideration cultural, social and psychological aspects at individual and household levels in order to assess how livelihoods and communities affect and are affected by changing social-ecological conditions in CCIRs. 
  3. Identify at an early stage key socio-economic trends and changes occurring both at socio-structural level considering social-psychological aspects and at the level of individual and household livelihoods and communities, affecting social-ecological conditions in CCIRs.
  4. Gather critical insights from a wide and representative diversity of CCIRs.
  5. Map out and assess, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the different kinds of coping and innovation strategies implemented by regional actors related to clean-energy transitions.
  6. Provide theoretically-grounded practical recommendations to support the most effective positive tipping interventions – those with higher desired systemic effects – to enable low-carbon, clean-energy transitions for Europe’s CCIRs.
  7. Generate continuous mutual learning feedbacks and enhance regional transformative capacities through the whole duration of the project by ensuring an early engagement of the case studies’ stakeholders.

While our analysis will look at both negative and positive tipping points, a main focus of TIPPING+ will be on the exploration of the conditions and potential interventions supporting the emergence of positive tipping points towards low-carbon, clean-energy transitions in a total of 20 selected European CCIRs case studies – and complemented with the insights from other international partners and cases. A central tenet of the theory on positive tipping points is that the achievement of desired futures and deliberate transformations in social-ecological systems is conditioned by three main elements: (1) the social construction of collective visions and narratives, which frame and make sense of the actions that need to be taken by a given constituency of action, (2) the types of endogenous capacities generated and mobilised out of such rhetorical discourse devices, and (3) the different solutions or coping or innovation strategies which derive from such capacities, ultimately oriented to achieve the original vision. Therefore, a positive tipping point is achieved whenever necessary and sufficient capacities have been built to implement the kinds of solutions/actions to achieve a transformative vision of the system, so that new desired systems’ conditions are created (see Figure).

METHODOLOGY

Methodologically, the TIPPING+ project will address three main knowledge domains integrating both quantitative and qualitative social science approaches, as follows:

  1. SOCIO-STRUCTURAL REGIONAL SYSTEMS’ CHARACTERISATION. These series of tasks will be looking from an inter- and transdisciplinary way at series of components related to demographic, geographic, cultural, policy, psychological-behavioural, economic and techno-energy dimensions that affect the emergence of SETPs and potentially tipping interventions in the 20 selected regional socio- energy systems. Four cross-cutting work packages (WPs 1-4) representative of different social science perspectives will provide the state-of-the-art, key disciplinary social science insights and assist the case studies in the process of gathering new insights from these case studies and move the state of the art in their respective disciplines.
  2. INTEGRATION FRAMEWORK. A major tenet of TIPPING+ is that a single social science discipline is insufficient to grasp the large complexities that explain the dynamics and emergence of SETPs. Therefore, different disciplines and perspectives, including those of practitioners and those related to the inclusion of women and youth, need to be taken into account in an integrated manner. Thus, from the outset the tasks of the integration work package (WP7) will focus on liaising with experts from the different social science domains present in WPs 1-4 to generate an analytical framework to examine the occurrence of SETPs within the selected case studies.
  3. ACTIONABLE KNOWLEDGE TO SUPPORT LOW-CARBON, CLEAN ENERGY TRANSITIONS. TIPPING+ will generate not only descriptive and analytical kinds of knowledge but will also systematically examine and produce desirable visions and narratives to support the emergence of positive SETPs, identify the most effective tipping interventions and foster endogenous capacities and strategies for low-carbon, clean energy transitions at regional systems level.

I. Cross-cutting analysis of population and socioeconomic trends, political issues and cultural dimensions in CCIRs:

  • WP1: Demographic trends and challenges in gender, migration and youth.
  • WP2: Cultural trends and socio-psychological factors.
  • WP3: Policy and governance trends and challenges.
  • WP4: Economic trends and challenges.

II. Case studies of CCIRs, mutual learning, stakeholder engagement and outreaching

  • WP5: Regional case studies.
  • WP6: Stakeholder engagement, learning, dissemination and outreach.

III. Knowledge integration and policy recommendations and visions

  • WP7: Integration, synthesis, policy visions and recommendations.

IV. Management, outreaching and Coordination

  • WP8: Management and Coordination.

TIPPING+ regional case studies (CSs)

The TIPPING+ project will carry out a systematic and comparative analysis of 20 case studies of European CCIRs (including Greenland), complemented with other non-European international cases in Australia, Canada and Indonesia. Thus, the main focus and unit of analysis of TIPPING+ are regional social-ecological systems heavily dependent on fossil fuel industries or the extraction of fossil fuels themselves. The TIPPING+ case studies will cover examples of regions which have recently experienced an actual tipping point in their demographic, socioeconomic, psychological or cultural dynamics, but also regions where existing trends indicate that either a positive or a negative tipping point is likely to occur.

The overall goal of the case studies is to gather empirical and comparable insights to answer the main key intertwined questions of the TIPPING+ project, which are:

  • Why at one or several points in time particular Coal and Carbon Intensive Regions (CCIRs) flip into fundamentally different development trajectory and embrace low carbon, clean-energy transformations?
  • What are the actual effects of such fundamental changes on the livelihoods and sustainability of the case  study regional economy and social-ecological system?
  • How can the knowledge from the recent past about the multiple social-ecological processes leading to sudden and fundamental changes in the case study region be used to identify the most effective tipping interventions enacting low-carbon, clean-energy transitions in other regions?

Background

This project addresses the European Commissions Call for Proposal under Horizon 2020.

Call (part) identifier: H2020-LC-SC3-2019-NZE-RES-CC
Topic: LC-SC3-CC-1-2018-2019-2020 Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) aspects of the Clean-Energy Transition
Project duration: 36 Months
Project volume: 2.996.188,75 Euro

Project partner


Participant No

Participant organisation name

Short name

Country

1

Global Climate Forum (Coordinator)

GCF

Germany

2

Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule Zuerich

ETHZ

Switzerland

3

Universita Degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza

UR

Italy

4

Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies EV

IASS

Germany

5

Ecole d’Economie de Paris

EEP-PSE

France

6

Nordlandsforskning AS

NRI

Norway

7

Universitaet Graz

UG

Austria

8

University of Piraeus Research Center

UPRC

Greece

9

Univerzita Palackeho V Olomouci

PUO

Czechia

10

Westport Consulting Doo Sarajevo

WPC

Bosnia and Herzegovina

11

Scoala Nationala de Studii Politice si Administrative

SNSPA

Romania

12

Fundacja Nawkova Instytut Badan Strukturalnych

IBS

Poland

13

Aalborg Universitet

AAU

Denmark

14

PT Sustainability and Resilience

Su-re.co

Indonesia

15

Asociación Eco-Union

EcoU

Spain