The overarching objective of FAIRTRANS is to promote transformations to a fair and fossil free future.

About Fairtrans

The overarching objective of the proposed programme is to promote transformations to a fair and fossil free future (FAIRTRANS).

We will co-create roadmaps for staying within the remaining carbon budget according to the Paris Agreement together with trade unions and other large Swedish popular movement organisations (PMOs) with over 3 million members. The interests, jobs and wellbeing of ordinary citizens are often perceived as threatened by the ongoing digital revolution (WP4) and higher fuel prices. FAIRTRANS proposes to co-create a science-based policy framework with these large PMOs to facilitate rapid yet resilient decarbonisation strategies and policies (WP5). Input legitimacy is inherent in our approach and output legitimacy is achieved through effective, cost-efficient and fair transformative strategies and policies with long-term, lasting impacts.

Transformations require technological transitions and we will calculate comprehensive national roadmaps, taking into account a globally fair national carbon budget (WP1) and trade-offs with other planetary boundaries and SDGs (WP2). This is compared with the sector-wise roadmaps that dominate the public discourse, which risk overestimating e.g. the supply of biomass and not analysing distribution effects (WP2). Recent research, and also the UNDP and the EEA, have concluded that sustainability transformations need to go beyond technical transitions and re-consider visions for sustained quality of life which are not contingent on GDP growth. FAIRTRANS therefore explores scenarios for decoupling, rebound effects and how this influences a rapid and fair climate transformation (WP2).

Green negative emission technologies (NETs) are part of the EU’s new 55% emission reduction target and FAIRTRANS will explore scenarios, together with key stakeholders, for increasing and sustaining carbon sinks of forests (WP3). We will also collaborate to develop a digital platform and a voluntary market for incentivising carbon sequestration in agriculture, with sustainable farming as co-benefit (WP3).

The impact of digital revolution on society is shaping the prospect of achieving the objective of FAIRTRANS. In WP4 we engage in production of scientific knowledge for ensuring digital climate action that is fair and inclusive, while we develop new digital tools to capture broad-based societal attitudes towards transformation in Sweden and the EU. We also use an inside perspective on emergent behavioural shifts in society due to remote work and digital commons that has accelerated during the pandemic. In combination, our approach to digitalization attempts to obtain new knowledge that can facilitate co-creation of a discourse and policy for a fair and rapid decarbonisation.

A wide array of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) will co-create knowledge with researchers in WP2-5. One partner, the politically independent think tank Global Utmaning, has already enrolled large PMOs in collaborations for a climate agenda and FAIRTRANS will benefit from the trust and knowledge that has already been established. FAIRTRANS has engaged additional large PMOs and CSOs. A key focus is on understanding barriers and opportunities for fair transformations, and co-developing governance strategies and policies together with PMOs and other CSOs (WP5). We will also engage with PMOs to develop strategies for action and

learning, to ensure that their members are included and can benefit from the transformations. Expected impacts include a distinct reduction of the present societal polarisation, increasing legitimacy for rapid decarbonisation, and a new societal contract that is scientifically credible and socially legitimate.

The programme management includes researchers from the natural sciences, political science, economics, social sciences and sustainability science, with an excellent track-record of science-policy research with CSOs, professional communicators and a board with outstanding experience and insights into the Swedish governance system.

Visions and missions of FAIRTRANS

FAIRTRANS is founded on a realist philosophy where Earth’s biosphere, including the climate system, is a foundation for human wellbeing. This foundation is under threat by today’s global social and economic systems.

In our view, equitable and fair human development can only take place within a just and safe operating space (Steffen et al. 2015; Raworth 2017), recognizing Planetary Boundaries (Rockström et al. 2009). This view is endorsed by the UNDP in its Human Development Report (UNDP 2020) to which some of us contributed. There is growing scientific understanding that “(in)equity and (un)sustainability are produced by the interactions and dynamics of coupled social–ecological systems” (Leach et al. 2018). Real system-wide transformation is needed.

The vision for FAIRTRANS is to contribute nationally and internationally to a fair societal transformations that help to realise the Paris Agreement, based on scientific knowledge and respect for planetary boundaries and social goals. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep global average temperature well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C. From this goal, national carbon budgets can be developed, contingent upon assumptions about negative emission technologies and global fairness principles. The UNFCCC principle on common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities is scale-free but since we assume that the remaining carbon budget is strikingly small, transformation necessitates pervasive strategies and policies, which call for stakeholder and citizen dialogue on how to understand “fair” in a global as well as national context.

Our mission is to develop science-based and fair roadmaps for rapid decarbonisation, consistent with the Swedish carbon budget, through collaboration with key actors from civil society.

FAIRTRANS distinguishes between transformation and adaptation. Adaptation is about adjusting responses to changing external drivers and internal processes and thereby allows for resilience and development along the current trajectory (Folke et al. 2010).  Transformation, on the other hand, implies undermining the resilience of the present system to break with some of the existing structures. This is often referred to as crossing a threshold or shifting to a new regime. Transformative governance seeks to deliberately shift to more desirable regimes by altering the system-defining goals, structures and processes (Walker et al. 2004; Chaffin et al. 2016). The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services defines transformative change as a “fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values” (IPBES 2019). IPBES argues that transformative changes are “more likely when efforts are directed at […] key leverage points, where efforts yield exceptionally large effects: (1) visions of a good life; (2) total consumption and waste” (p. 9). This means “steering away from the current, limited paradigm of economic growth… reducing overconsumption and waste” (p. 10).

Sustaining the resilience of Earth’s biosphere requires far-reaching transformations of the economy, breaking path dependency and shifting toward a new development trajectory defined by a fundamentally different narrative (Hahn & Nykvist 2017). FAIRTRANS focuses on deliberate and fair societal transformations to safeguard a resilient climate system and secure sustained and resilient delivery of ecosystem services. There is a growing recognition of the dramatic socio-cultural, political, economic, and technological changes required to move societies toward more desirable futures (Pereira et al. 2019). Real transformations result from fundamental changes in human and political vision, planning, and action that offer new configurations of social-ecological systems (Westley et al. 2013).

In this framework, the EU Green Deal should become a strategy for transformation. An agenda focused on green growth risks perpetuating, and thereby adapting to, today’s growth paradigm, which impedes a real transformation (Olsson et al. 2017). The empirical fact that economic growth increases resource use and in general increases CO2-emissions needs to be taken into account; each action in the Green Deal needs to be carefully analysed in terms of its effects on the climate, environment, jobs and sustainable development. The growth of green technology enables shrinkage of fossil-intensive technology, but such “creative destruction” (Schumpeter 1942) is met with resistance from major economic actors investing in business-as-usual (BAU) (EASAC 2020). New technologies and green jobs are necessary for the needed climate transformation, but risk being co-opted by the growth paradigm, which generates rebound effects and therefore results in less and slower emission reductions (Hickel & Kallis 2020). The digital transformation is guided by intended as well as unintended policy choices, and involves both threats and opportunities (TWI2050 2019). The converging, step-change innovations of the digital revolution (“the Fourth Industrial Revolution”) needs to be managed by overarching climate policies for the sustainability transformations needed to achieve the Paris accord.

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FAIRTRANS finansieras via det Nationella Forskningsprogrammet om Klimat (NFP Klimat). Programmet ska bidra till att uppnå Sveriges mål att vara ett fossilfritt välfärdssamhälle och ambitionen att vara ledande i det globala arbetet med att förverkliga Parisavtalets målsättningar. Läs mer om NFP Klimat.

Forskningsprogrammet  Fairtrans, ska med civilsamhällets erfarenheter och engagemang underlätta och påskynda en rättvis klimatomställning.