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  • Author or Editor: Ralph Horne x
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Australia is often regarded as a place of liveable cities and economic success. With a highly urbanised population distribution, the competitive advantage of cities has been long accentuated by colonial and post-colonial policy settings. However, widening wealth and health gaps combined with high dependency on yesterdays fossil-intensive technologies are making these cities increasingly vulnerable. Popular programs that have encouraged households and businesses to rush for solar power and energy efficiency are being abandoned. Exposed through an overreliance on coal exports and inefficient urban systems, Australian policy settings are falling rapidly behind in sustainability performance, including in responding to climate change. While its competitors gear up for a post-fossil future, public policy is following the line of least resistance and maximizing fossil fuel exploitation rather than reforming the economy. The resulting trajectory of uncertainty has implications for economic, social and environmental sustainability over the coming years.

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Urban sustainability experiments have drawn wide interest among scholars and practitioners of decarbonization. They often envisage agile local governments working with community initiatives, such as direct forms of exchange that shorten production-consumption chains and provide for human scale decarbonization practice. However, in reality, cities are entangled in globalized systems, whether they be ubiquitous digital technologies or data systems, or cultures and social rules associated with them. Moreover, national governments retain significant jurisdictional and financial power over city governments, and multi-level governance of post-carbon cities remains fraught and complex. This provides an overview of the diversity of urban experiments and networks that aim at enhancing urban sustainability. Drawing on a database of 80 projects in Australia and internationally, an empirical framework is proposed for situating post-carbon urban experiments within the broader field of urban experiments. So defined, post-carbon urban experiments focus on actions that deliberately aim to achieve inclusion and environmental sustainability, while practising for a post-carbon world. The considerable work done to date on ideas of socio-technical transitions and urban living labs is recognized. The conclusion reflects on prospects for urban post-carbon inclusion in practice.

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Ocean soups of plastic have provided increasingly visceral signs of major problems with modern systems of production and consumption, leading to calls for action towards ‘zero waste’ by promoting the circular economy (CE). While superficially attractive, the CE idea faces a raft of problems that extend well beyond the technical and the monetary to everyday social practices. This chapter charts the problematic imaginary of the CE idea and domestic waste. In so doing five key points are made. First, that the CE focus on technology and behaviour change pays insufficient attention to distributional impacts, inclusion and social life. Second, that current approaches to domestic recycling are set to exacerbate already existing inequalities, and are unlikely to advance sustainability. Third, socio-material entanglements in domestic waste are centred as a means to approach inclusion. Fourth, social practices and the capabilities approach are both proposed as foundations for a future domestic discard regime. Finally, ideas are presented for relational-informed local waste governance.

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Housing retrofit for decarbonization occupies a central project in addressing the climate emergency, and this is made even more pressing by rising pressure on access to decent affordable housing. Contributing factors include conflict, trade wars, financialized housing systems, COVID-19 and complexities in retrofit services of provision. While fitting extra insulation and choosing efficient appliances may seem modest and achievable, in reality, housing retrofit is affective, place-specific, socio-material, and reflects dynamic and heterogeneous norms and standards. Added to this are contemporary structural inequities in housing, homemaking, property condition, tenure, typology and histories of refurbishment. Conventional discourses of energy paybacks, behaviour and market-based action are insufficient. Policies that incentivize individual home improvements and consumption are part of the problem, not the solution, and only demote ideas of community-wide retrofit for the planetary commons. This chapter explores inclusive and decommodified approaches to post-carbon housing retrofit grounded in people’s socio-material experiences. Drawing upon a large four-year project involving over 100 interviews with householders in Australia, it aims to contribute to an agenda of housing retrofit for post-carbon inclusion. Ways of shifting industry practices are contrasted with local self-organized approaches to examine how to scale-up retrofit in heterogeneous socio-material conditions.

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The climate emergency and COVID-19 have brought fresh urgency to both housing financialization and home as building blocks of societies. In westernized homeowner dominated societies, a seemingly eternal housing affordability crisis and gentrification are perennial features of policy agendas. In this context, prospects are assessed for the proliferation of inclusive housing in the post-carbon era, confronting the idea that homeownership is the only or best option, and that a growth model of economic development is the route to achieving this. The chapter forms a bridge between contemporary mainstream narratives of affordable housing and radical degrowth analyses of a prefigurative nature. Housing studies is reflected on as a diverse field, connecting normative ideas of housing as a three-part social construct – a commodity-cum-asset (homeownership, housing markets, investments and capital accumulation); housing with use values offering spaces (shelter) and services and comforts (such as climate control and locational convenience); and housing as ‘home’ where affective dimensions of dwellings connect to subjective meanings, emotions, memory and ontological security.

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Transitions Built on Justice

This collection pays unique attention to the highly challenging problems of addressing inequality within decarbonisation – particularly under-explored aspects, such as high consumption, degrowth approaches and perverse outcomes.

Contributors point out means and possibilities of the transition from high carbon inequalities to post-carbon inclusion. They apply a variety of conceptual and methodological approaches in all-inclusive ways to diverse challenges, such as urban heating and retrofitting.

Richly illustrated with case studies from the city to the household, this book critically examines ‘just transitions’ to achieve sustainable societies in the future.

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Inclusion is so central to the response to climate change that any response that does not place inclusion at the centre imperils the whole project and, therefore, the future of humanity. Current proposed solutions to mitigate climate change are exacerbating inequality, and feeding both misery and resistance to climate mitigation as a societal goal. While markets create the poverty and the social boundaries that imperil decarbonization, national governments protect national interests against planetary interests, inter-generational interests and inter-species interests. Post-carbon inclusion is, thus, not simply a ‘nice-to-have’ combination, rather it is a necessary agenda that supersedes decarbonization via business-as-usual processes.

The implications for post-carbon inclusion research and practice are grouped here into three entangled and overlapping elements: mapping the terrain through deeper understandings of society and practice; resetting rights and justice; and empowerment and agency. The resultant agenda provides directions for research and policy communities working in partnership in the growing field of post-carbon inclusion studies. As pointed out by movements of environmental justice, degrowth and social justice, hope lies in new forms of engagement, in new agents and actors operating in new ways.

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As efforts to address the climate crisis (hopefully) continue to multiply across the urban world, two central questions are brought to the fore: first, how could these efforts be made effective and sufficient to address the climate emergency and heal the planet for future generations? Second, to what extent can effective actions also promote justice and inclusion? To address these questions, this chapter sets out four starting premises and introduces key concepts of post-carbon inclusion, set against current initiatives on ecological modernization, circular economies, just transitions, socio-technical transitions and degrowth. Decarbonization and inequality are entangled at multiple scales, whether planetary, national, regional, city, local community or house(hold). The implications and ramifications of such socio-technological entanglement matter insofar as they might reinforce each other; they might present as a Faustian bargain. For example, is the rush for minerals to feed low carbon technology unacceptably exacerbating global ecosystem decline? This chapter describes how efforts to decarbonize necessarily disrupt and reconfigure domestic and urban scale infrastructures and practices, generating new patterns of difference and marginality, as illustrated in the various chapters throughout the book.

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