TRANSrisk Special Issue in Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions Journal

TRANSrisk studied the risks and uncertainties within low carbon transition pathways, and how transitions can be implemented in ways that are technically, economically and sociably feasible.

There are many potential roads leading to a low carbon transition requiring a consorted effort of short to long term plans. Transition pathways is one means of discussing about the long and uncertain roads that could lead us towards a low carbon future. These mitigation pathways and their intended outcomes are often portrayed as inherently positive. However, there are risks associated with the potential futures. One is related to the risk associated with implementing the pathway while another involves unintended negative consequences. The combination of these risks may result in difficult trade-offs between meeting social, economic, political and/or environmental goals.

Analysing the complex set of risks, benefits and trade-offs thereof inevitably requires an interdisciplinary and interconnected analysis considering numerous interactions and pathway components. This involves high-level agreements that aim to set targets and objectives, choosing suitable strategies and policy instruments, as well as the technologies, investments, and behavioural changes. Moreover, we need to consider that what constitutes a risk or a benefit depends on the point of view of different stakeholders, whose preferences and perceptions can profoundly impact the feasibility of any transition pathway.

This special issue (entitled "Assessing risks and uncertainties of low-carbon transition pathways") provides a transdisciplinary analytical framing or method in assessing transition mitigation and/or adaptation pathways, their potential synergies as well as risks and uncertainties. The analysis can be accrued out by applying a combination of quantitative approaches (including a range of socio-economic, climate models) and qualitative methods that account for the complex human dimension. These potential transition pathways may include technological innovations, and policy mixes that extend beyond the energy sector and explore the industrial, construction, transportation or other sectors.

The papers in the special issue explore transition pathways beyond a theoretical exercise by exploring the realities of implementing the pathways in a context through case studies at various spatial levels (regional, national, sub-national, cities etc.).

Each paper contributes towards drawings conclusions with respect to the individual methods employed, the transdisciplinary approach (integration of both qualitative and quantitative methods), and the policy and decision-making processes required to arrive at the low carbon future.

The Special Issue is available online here.

Research Articles:

The following research articles have been published under this special issue:

  • An evolving risk perspective for policy instrument choice in sustainability transitions;
  • Capturing the distributional impacts of long-term low-carbon transitions;
  • Are battery electric vehicles the future? An uncertainty comparison with hydrogen and combustion engines;
  • Risk assessment of the low-carbon transition of Austria’s steel and electricity sectors;
  • Climate-change induced uncertainties, risks and opportunities for the coal-based region of Silesia: Stakeholders' perspectives;
  • Challenges for implementing renewable energy in a cooperative-driven off-grid system in the Philippines;
  • Risks and opportunities associated with decarbonising Rotterdam’s industrial cluster;
  • Pathways for the transition of the Polish power sector and associated risks;
  • Barriers to and consequences of a solar-based energy transition in Greece;
  • Lessons from Bali for small-scale biogas development in Indonesia;
  • Modelling stakeholder agency to investigate sustainable charcoal markets in Kenya;
  • Qualitative and quantitative risk assessment of expanding photovoltaics in the Netherlands;
  • Evaluating integrated impacts of low-emission transitions in the livestock sector.

Guest Editors:

  • Dr. Jenny Lieu, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex;
  • Dr. Susanne Hanger, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zürich;
  • Dr. Alevgul Sorman, Basque Centre for Climate Research;
  • Dr. Oscar van Vliet, Climate Policy Group, ETH Zürich
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