Techno-fixes or ‘solidaristic commoning’

In keeping with advocates of such a climate fix, it will be extra easily, feasibly carried out than present choices.

These wishful techno-optimistic expectations specific the elite’s long-term alibi, particularly: awaiting hypothetical fixes and maybe funding them, in the meantime persevering with high-carbon production-consumption methods.

As means to ship or stimulate future techno-solutions, coverage elites advocate market-type devices. Al Gore, it’s possible you’ll recall, when US vp was president Invoice Clinton’s local weather consultant. He pushed the Kyoto Protocol (1997) to undertake carbon buying and selling as a situation for US authorities help for the settlement. And it merely by no means materialised.

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This coverage framework is worse than merely diversionary, in at the very least 4 senses: first, it displaces accountability away from establishments, as an alternative in the direction of nameless market forces and/or technological progress, which may then take the blame for failure.

Additional, it extends the neoliberal state’s function in creating markets and outsourcing options by means of aggressive contracts. Third, it promotes a societal mannequin simulating or intensifying market-type competitors, whereas undermining or marginalising cooperative options. Lastly, it facilitates growth of high-carbon actions within the expectation that the emissions will be diminished by technological means.

This common elite technique will be understood as a neoliberal techno-market repair. Such a coverage framework has been promoted by the UN Local weather Conference and the European Union’s Emissions Buying and selling System, regardless of their pretensions of worldwide management for local weather options.

The annual Conferences of the Events (COPs) nonetheless promote carbon-trading and future techno-fixes, fairly than the required shorter-term actions to scale back greenhouse gasoline emissions.

Since 2019 the European Inexperienced Deal has prolonged acquainted subsidies and market-type incentives for decarbonisation applied sciences, however imposed no necessities to scale back fossil fuels.


Fortuitously, some fixes have provoked public controversy, opposition alliances and proposals for actually low-carbon alternate options. Such efforts have mobilised social forces and points past local weather points alone.

From these controversies, what will be discovered for future methods? How do these experiences point out a possible social company for system change?  Such questions will likely be explored right here in European contexts.

The EU has an extended historical past of techno-optimistic guarantees for environmental fixes, justifying system continuity. Justifications have implied that technoscientific advances will keep away from or overcome unfavourable results of earlier applied sciences.

Ultimately, their advocates have claimed that related fixes would supply local weather options. Such techno-market fixes have typically provoked public controversy.

Opposition alliances have framed false options in pejorative methods bridging a number of points, thus aligning the frames of potential contributors.


For instance:

  • “Local weather-smart agriculture” was claimed to sequester carbon by means of no-till cultivation strategies, because of GM (transgenic) crops. Opponents pejoratively reframed this agenda as “corporate-smart greenwash” which degrades the soil and monetises Nature by means of carbon credit.

  • Future second-generation (or superior) biofuels had been claimed to interchange oil.  Opponents pejoratively reframed biofuels as industrially-produced “agrofuels”, which “feed oil dependancy” and generate “a carbon-emissions time bomb”.

  • Novel incineration strategies had been euphemistically known as Superior Thermal Remedies, claiming to scale back GHG emissions from landfill and thru bio-based gas merchandise. Opponents pejoratively reframed all thermal therapies as “incinerators in disguise”; likewise as a linear financial system of “make anew, use-and-dispose”, losing sources and harming close by communities.

  • Carbon Seize and Storage (CCS) from pure gasoline, e.g. for producing hydrogen, was claimed to decarbonise fossil fuels within the close to future. Opponents pejoratively reframed this agenda as “hydrogen hype”, perpetuating fossil fuels and GHG emissions, whereas additionally hijacking the EU’s Covid-19 restoration funds.

These numerous circumstances illustrate some common patterns.


In climate-fix controversies, multi-stakeholder citizen-expert alliances have contested official knowledge-claims about advantages of the putative repair. These alliances will be usually understood as “mobilised counter-publics”.

They’ve stimulated public controversy over dominant agendas, averted passive public consent and counterposed different futures. Thus they open up larger alternatives to advertise low-carbon, lower-energy futures.

Counter-publics typically emerge from social actions, whose contributors carry numerous framings of a societal downside, reminiscent of environmental or well being threats, socio-economic inequity, useful resource degradation.

Such opposition has drawn on information from socially excluded teams – together with service customers, sufferers, low-income teams, small-scale producers – facilitated by NGOs and social actions.

Efficient motion relies on integrating all these teams and points by means of joint motion. As a characteristic of social actions, “frame-bridging” aligns “two or extra ideologically congruent however structurally unconnected frames relating to a specific difficulty or downside”.


By frame alignments, counter-publics have devised pejorative slogans undermining local weather fixes, whereas advocating different futures.

As protest raised threat or sustainability points, state our bodies have framed them as direct, doubtlessly avoidable results of a product or expertise, reminiscent of GM crops, biofuels, incinerators. The repair is presumed remediable by means of acceptable administration measures. This official framing has typically channelled dissent into specialist points, thus obscuring systemic drivers of hurt.

Regulatory procedures have evaluated potential hurt by means of implicit normative assumptions as regards what potential results could also be related, acceptable or worse than some customary.  These norms are sometimes disguised as “science”, as in the event that they lay above politics.

Local weather repair controversies

Counter-publics have recognized and questioned such normative standards, thus extending political controversy to regulatory experience. Furthermore, they’ve highlighted how political-economic pursuits and institutional commitments drive the repair. These vital views typically have emerged by means of information co-production between researchers and activists.

Furthermore, such counter-publics have highlighted the anti-democratic foundation of technicised decision-making, which depoliticises societal selections. Counter-publics additionally determine “undone science”; they demand or generate sources for brand spanking new information which might serve a broad public profit fairly than personal pursuits.

Alternate options

They mobilise sources to fill the information hole, generally for different options by means of grassroots inclusive innovation.

Such improvements can contribute to eco-localisation agendas; they’ll construct extra satisfying lives by creating lower-energy types of livelihoods and localising production-consumption circuits.  That is generally known as “an financial system of sufficiency”.

It entails solidaristic commoning, reminiscent of creating communities that defend commons or devise new ones, as non-capitalist means to guard and acceptable sources. In all these methods, counter-publics can develop the choice establishments that are essential for system change.

Amidst these opposite agendas for system continuity versus system change, the labour motion has divergences on decarbonisation agendas, particularly within the world North.

Commerce unions in high-carbon sectors, generally calling themselves the “power unions”, have usually sided with their trade bosses by embracing techno-optimistic fixes. These wishfully think about a easy techno-driven transition which wants to vary solely the power expertise, in the meantime delaying or pre-empting low-carbon alternate options.


Usually, they promote Carbon Seize and Storage (CCS). This goals to decarbonise coal or fossil fuels into hydrogen as supposedly a  zero-carbon gas, thus justifying fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. 

Within the UK they’ve supported the Hydrogen Strategy Now marketing campaign, selling a cross-class nationwide curiosity in technological progress. Its patriotic picture juxtaposes Huge Ben with the Union Jack, which has been traditionally stigmatised because the Butcher’s Apron by anti-imperialists.

In contrast with high-carbon industrial sectors, public-sector unions such because the Public and Industrial Companies Union (PCS) have been extra supportive of socially simply, transformative decarbonisation agendas across the sufficiency precept. This attitude has been elaborated by a world community, Commerce Unions for Vitality Democracy (TUED).  The TUED strategy resonates with civil society agendas for a  Just Transition.

Thus decarbonisation agendas, whether or not they’re known as Green New Deal or Simply Transition, have divergent versions.

The capitalist high-carbon one has usually prevailed inside trade-union federations such because the UK’s TUC and the AFL-CIO within the US. Disrupting the cross-class alliance will likely be crucial to ensure that the labour motion to play a stronger function in socially simply decarbonisation agendas and therefore system change.


‘System Change Not Local weather Change’ has change into an more and more outstanding slogan. The “system” denotes socially unjust, profit-driven funding, useful resource plunder, dispossession and labour exploitation.  The slogan has been taken up by the Fridays for Future protests, amongst others. “The local weather and ecological disaster can’t be solved with out system change”, declared Greta Thunberg on the 2020 UN Local weather Motion Summit.

What impedes system change? Entrenched financial pursuits search to capitalise their sunk investments in fossil fuels, which proceed to develop.

Certainly, “the fangs of the fossil gas firms are being sunk into the necks” of individuals all through the worldwide South, argues the Nigerian activist Nnimmo Bassey. Renewable power dietary supplements that growth fairly than halting it. Collectively these sources feed the final rise in power utilization.

To some extent, Western European economies have been decarbonised by outsourcing high-carbon manufacturing to the worldwide South after which importing the merchandise. Additionally they purchase carbon offsets, which promote a licence to pollute the ambiance.  Slightly than cut back greenhouse gasoline emissions, such credit disguise increases.

Extra essentially,  capitalist market competitors together with fossil-fuel subsidies perpetuates the high-carbon, environmentally damaging, socially unjust system. This technique have to be overcome for efficient local weather motion. This crucial “adjustments all the things”, as Naomi Klein argued a few years in the past. But coverage elites lack the desire or capability to make any basic change.


As Jonathan Neale factors out: “The individuals who now run and personal the world have spent their grownup lives convincing the remainder of us of three issues. First, we have now to obey the foundations of the market. Second, there isn’t any different to the market. Third, if we disobey, we will likely be crushed.”

Certainly, by means of techno-market fixes, dominant establishments have promoted climate-delay methods, thus imposing system continuity.  This function characterises the UN Local weather Conference and the EU”s local weather coverage.

The suitable response “have to be a logic of confrontation, pitting Europe’s communities in opposition to Europe’s establishments that appear unwilling to see the local weather and environmental disaster by means of the lens of their lived realities”, argues the Green New Deal for Europe alliance.

Such a confrontation will spotlight the inherent limits of the dominant establishments and the necessity for grassroots alternate options. The 2022 Ecosocialist Encounter declared: “‘System change, not local weather change’ will not be a request we make to the present establishments. It’s our accountability to make it occur. To attain this requires that we ought to be coordinated globally and regionally, that we outline methods and act collectively, and create areas the place we will construct peoples’ energy and develop the motion.”


How to take action?  A transformative mobilisation is important to construct different establishments which may strengthen self-confidence in local weather options. These should confront, overcome or bypass proprietary claims over the sources crucial for different futures.

From the varied circumstances above, a transformative mobilisation has 5 common options: mobilised counter-publics, body alignments, grassroots innovation, eco-localisation and solidaristic commoning to organise frequent sources.

Collectively these options will help hyperlink numerous political points and social forces, a lot broader than the local weather motion per se. This could construct a social company with the political will, collective capacities and sources essential to implement robust decarbonisation measures, as steps in the direction of system change.

This Creator

Les Levidow is Senior Analysis Fellow on the Open College.  This text attracts on his forthcoming e book, Beyond Climate Fixes: From Public Controversy to System Change, which elaborates the large image by means of case research of techno-market fixes versus alternate options. This text first appeared at People and Nature


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