Are rapid and inclusive energy and climate transitions oxymorons? Towards principles of responsible acceleration
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Building from two strands of literature within “Sociotechnical agendas: Reviewing future directions for energy and climate research”, this perspective piece seeks to open a discussion about how to responsibly accelerate transitions. First, we identify a managerial literature on how innovation and diffusion can be accelerated, which focuses on deliberation with consensus-oriented ambitions. Second, is a set of perspectives that highlights unevenness, and therefore seeks to radically expand climate and energy democracy by promoting new forms of participatory practices. There are few contact points between these literatures. We argue that this can be explained by tensions and paradoxes that accompany accelerated transitions. These paradoxes cannot easily be resolved. We discuss how accelerated social and technological change poses challenges to inclusive and participatory transitions. Further, we discuss how rapid transitions tends to contribute to conflicts between core and peripheral sites. Thus, transitions are not only affected by societal conditions, but also contribute to co-producing social order, including the many forms of social turmoil currently experienced. Such insight places greater responsibilities on transition scholars, especially from reflexive disciplines such as STS and geography. We conclude by discussing how this responsibility could translate into situating climate and energy transition scholarship in broader debates about future socio-technical orders, and sketch three principles of responsible acceleration: a) Moving towards a broad epistemic basis for producing and assessing transition policies and strategies, b) Nurturing polycentrism for rapid climate and energy transitions, and c) Developing polytemporal strategies for transition.