Climate change, energy and sustainability

The work we publish creates an understanding of the connection between global discourses on climate change facts, specific policy responses and environmental law, contributing to ongoing debates in academia and beyond. It addresses the following UN Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, Goal 13: Climate Action, Goal 14: Life Below Water and Goal 15: Life on Land.

Our publishing links to the global project, including the UN Agenda 2030, and provides a solid foundation for international and domestic policies around global warming, to support building impactful democratic solutions. 

Bristol University Press and Policy Press are signed up to the UN SDG Publishers Compact. In Climate change, energy and sustainability, we aim to address the following goals: 

Climate Change, Energy and Sustainability

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The 2021 UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) awakened the world to the critical need for food systems transformation. Several commitments were made during the summit, with the UN Secretary-General reiterating the need to support national mechanisms that develop and implement national pathways to 2030 that are inclusive and consistent with countries’ climate commitments, building upon the national food systems dialogues. Much of the discussion in the post-summit era has mostly been high level and focused on how countries can be supported to transform pathways into strategies and to design and operationalise investment plans aimed at fostering sustainable and inclusive food systems transformation. However, what has been missing in these discussions is what the envisaged transformation means for the smallholder farmer, and what it takes for smallholder farmers to embrace the transformative agenda and transition to more sustainable methods of production. In this article, reference is made to two of the Five Action Tracks, namely Action Track 3 (boost nature-based solutions) and Action Track 5 (build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses), whose central themes are anchored around resilience and sustainability. The paper discusses the underpinnings of nature-positive production systems and explores how these systems interface with smallholder farmers’ circumstances and production goals, and how this might affect implementation of the envisaged practices at the farm level. The central argument in this article is that discussions around food systems transformation must include the smallholder farmers, their lived experiences, socio-economic circumstances, aspirations and production goals.

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The Independent Review of England’s agri-food systems, commonly known as the National Food Strategy (NFS), was commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in 2019. The NFS report, published in two stages in 2020 and 2021, outlines a range of interventions and policy proposals to achieve better agri-food outcomes in terms of public health and environmental sustainability. This commentary focuses on the challenges associated with incorporating a diversity of voices within the NFS’s evidence base. To achieve this, the NFS mobilised a series of public dialogue events to capture lay perspectives. Led by professional facilitators, these events sought to open a deliberative space to explore the workings of agri-food systems, leading to the publication of a public engagement report in late 2021. While diverse views were recorded, the report found ‘a strong appetite for change’ among the participants, eager to address the problems associated with current agri-food systems. In commenting on the dialogue process, we identify three distinct problematics which arise from the NFS’s public engagement strategy. Firstly, we consider the array of subject positions at play in the report. Secondly, we discuss the ‘epistemologies of engagement’, reflecting on the different forms of knowledge that are enrolled through the process of public engagement. Thirdly, we consider the under-acknowledged politics that are at play in these kinds of public engagement exercises and the limits of ‘co-production’ as a methodological principle. We conclude by drawing out the wider (national and international) implications of this particular form of public engagement which aims to incorporate lay perspectives into policy development processes.

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In this article, I argue that care is a useful tool to think about consumption as embedded in social relations within and outside the market, and draw the consequences for moving towards sustainable lifestyles. To do so, I engage in a review of the literature that brings together consumption and care in its various forms. I review three main bodies of work: the literature on consumption that links care to consumer behaviour and consumption practices; the work addressing the commodifications of care and how it feeds in the neoliberal organisation of society; and the literature on climate change and the development of sustainable lifestyles. I close with a reflection on some lessons of care for academic researchers studying sustainability, consumption and a transition towards more sustainable and just societies.

Open access

Laurence Godin’s () piece is a very welcome and commendable attempt to provide a broader synthetisation of the current literature on care and consumption, and to generate some critical insights for future work in this area. I am drawing on Godin’s article to make some further observations. These are three-fold, pertaining to our current understandings of care, markets and consumption respectively.

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This article investigates how environmental ethics are at play in people’s everyday lives and practices of consumption from a practice theoretical perspective. The analysis is based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews from a larger study, with a selected focus in this article on the biographies and everyday practices of three households. These households were chosen for the analysis in order to reveal the greatest variation in degrees and ways of relating ethically to the environment.

Situating ethics in the specific contexts and lifeworlds of research participants reveals how environmental ethics of differing contents are to varying degrees at work in people’s lives. The article suggests that the general understanding of environmental ethics is closely connected to biographical histories as well as to social and cultural contexts. In a practice theoretical framework, environmental ethics are understood as a kind of general understanding that connects to larger scale cultural formations linking provision and consumption conceptualised as teleoaffective formations. In some cases, the general understanding may contribute to the formulation of a cultural critique of modern consumer society and create a vision of an alternative system of provision and consumption connected to an imagined teleoaffective formation.

Open access

While green public spaces have been studied in relation to biodiversity and climate change, and in relation to health and social inclusion, there is a need to further understand how they relate to a broader understanding of human wellbeing. Evidence suggests that public spaces play an important role with a view to happiness and mental health, but further evidence is needed on how people actually use such spaces and how human needs are met – and how this might compare across different contexts. This necessitates to linking conceptually, empirically and practically the consumption of such spaces, the notion of the good life, and the management of such spaces. Towards this aim, this article explores quality of life in relation to green public spaces in four cities of South and Southeast Asia: Chennai, Metro Manila, Shanghai and Singapore. Based on empirical research in these cities, we engage in a comparative analysis to discuss how and in what way ‘going to the park’ as a form of consumption is a satisfier towards meeting ‘Protected Needs’ () such as to live in a livable environment, to develop as a person or to be part of a community. The analysis shows that the practice ‘going to the park’ is linked to the practice ‘making the park’, leading to a discussion on how public policies can further support quality of life in cities. On a theoretical note, the article contributes to the debate about how to conceptually link human needs and social practices.

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Flying is the most climate-impacting form of individual consumption. This article interrogates the drivers and dynamics behind ever-increasing amounts of air travel ascribable to a minority, whose flying contributes an ever-larger proportion of travel-related energy consumption and carbon emissions. Moving beyond established work on (increases in) flying, it establishes the need to focus transport emissions reduction efforts on this relatively small number of elite, hyper-aeromobile travellers. After outlining existing literature on different aspects of flying and frequent flying, which are combined in referring to hyper-aeromobility, the article reviews the many diverse explanations for its drivers and dynamics arising from different disciplinary traditions. Treating flying and frequent flying as ‘consumption behaviour’ has tended to focus on individualised behavioural explanations, but understanding and tackling rising hyper-aeromobility involves grasping expanding systems of provision, and social and cultural positive feedback loops involving socialisation, habituation and internationalisation of social practices. Understanding these requires a multidisciplinary approach analogous to the ‘needs satisfier escalator’ model relating to increasing car use which has been proposed by . The article then provides data from qualitative research on high-energy-consuming households to provide backing for the particular relevance and importance of a subset of more sociological and structural drivers as contributing to the expansion of aeromobility and its concentration in a hyper-aeromobile elite. It concludes that the current reliance on voluntary behaviour change and different forms of financial disincentives is ineffective, whereas more radical structural change, restrictions and impositions of quotas are increasingly necessary.

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With the increasing pressure on the climate from human activities, it is urgent to envision and facilitate radically different ways of life that allow for significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. This only happens if policy and action initiatives go beyond discursive practices that treat climate change mitigation as a matter of technological fixes, and individual behavioural change. Decades of research on the sociology of consumption show that lifestyle changes are as much about changes to norms and ideas about what ‘a good life’ is as they are about access to the necessary competences, infrastructures and sustainable alternatives. Acknowledging the growing body of sociological research that seeks to understand how expectations of the future shape processes of social change in the present, more attention could be paid to the role of discourse, narratives and storying when it comes to making efforts towards carbon neutral climate futures. Taking as a point of departure a futuring methodology called the Future Travel Workshop, this article discusses the potential role of stories through Moezzi et al’s () notion of stories as inquiry and stories as process for futurity. Comprised of three sessions, the workshop explores what future everyday lives and societies might look and feel like. Each session is framed by a set of narratives on climate related problems of the present, and how these problems affect the way we think about futures. Interestingly, the participants’ imagined futures went from technologically utopic and tension-free towards tense and radically different conceptions of the needed levels of societal reorganisation.

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Increasing shares of the sustainable consumption literature postulate the need for a focus on limits to consumption as a basis for achieving absolute reductions in resource use. After all, improvements in the sustainability of consumption expected from technological innovation and efficiency gains have been eaten up by rebound effects, to date. The decoupling that proponents of green growth were hoping for is nowhere in sight. However, discussions about limits to consumption immediately meet opposition from political representatives, powerful associations and industry lobby groups alike. Specifically, opponents claim that we simply cannot afford a scaling back of consumption and the economic growth it is supposed to drive due to the growth-dependent nature of our welfare systems. Such claims have become very dominant narratives that influence what societies deem ‘realistic’ and ‘possible’ regarding the politics of sustainable consumption, cementing the current status quo. It also shows that research on strong sustainable consumption governance, that is, governance pursuing a reduction in consumption levels and fundamental shift in consumption patterns (especially in the Global North), needs to target such claims head on, if existing paradigmatic barriers to a sustainability transition are to be overcome. But what counter-narrative(s) can scholars offer? To identify potential elements of such counter-narrative(s) for consumption scholars to draw on, the present article investigates what answers critical sustainability research, in particular the degrowth literature, has in stock regarding the affordability of reductions in consumption-driven growth from the perspective of democratic welfare states.

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Ultimately, consumption drives the global economy and high levels of consumption among the wealthiest fraction of the population are responsible for a disproportionate amount of carbon emissions. Many experiences that motivate overconsumption include the pursuit of fun, a term that cuts across other conventional categories like pleasure, entertainment, leisure and play. This article surveys the scattered literature on fun and finds the concept useful in framing issues of overconsumption. Consumer capitalism is constantly finding and marketing new ways of having fun. I suggest that we should carefully assess the potential of particular kinds of fun to increase or reduce carbon emissions and use social and policy measures to discourage one and promote the other.

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