Transition towns: a grassroots solution to climate change?

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The Transition Network is a charitable organisation which aims to “inspire, encourage, connect, support and train communities as they self-organise around the Transition model, creating initiatives that rebuild resilience and reduce CO2 emissions.”

Founded in the small town of Totnes, England, in 2006, the network has rapidly expanded. Today, there are more than 2 000 transition initiatives in 50 different countries worldwide – including 150 in France – united under the International Transition Network.

Cities across France, including Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Bordeaux and Strasbourg, have decided to join the network as they see it providing the support, inspiration and guidance needed to initiate the actions that the transition requires.

According to the leaders of the movement, the Transition Network encourages the populations of a given region – be it a city, town, neighbourhood or village – to understand first of all the profound impact that the convergence of peak oil and climate change is going to have on their lives, and secondly, the necessity to prepare effectively for these changes.

More specifically, it entails implementing solutions that are designed to:

• greatly reduce, at both the household and community level, fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
• strengthen the region’s resilience and ability to absorb future shocks by seeking to localise strategic economic activities (promoting, for instance, consumption of locally produced food – see exhibits 1 and 2 below)
• strengthen the ties, mutual support and cooperation among participants in the initiative
• enable communities to acquire the necessary skills to strengthen a region’s autonomy.

Exhibit 1: Eating locally produced food requires consumers to eat fruit and vegetables when they are in season, here’s a guide to consuming tomatoes seasonally.

Capture hy

Source: This poster was produced by Zoo, designers graphiques for the purpose of promoting local food production.

According to the movement’s charter, each member of the local transition group should find the solutions best suited to their needs, depending on the resources available to them, the challenges they face and their motivations. The transition model proposed to members provides a coherent framework, but not a coercive one.

A so-called “Transition initiative” is a form of catalyst, which in the defined location, has the following objectives:

• Helping people in a specific locality define their future together and the solutions they want to implement
• Implementing concrete actions (for example, local and group purchasing, shared gardens, local currencies, ‘repair cafes’, recycling centres, conferences)
• Supporting and promoting the achievements of others such as local associations, ‘Agenda 21’ groups, or even businesses
• Encouraging and promoting the dovetailing within the territory, firstly of residents’ initiatives and government actions, and secondly those of various popular initiatives.

According to those driving the movement, it is at the local level where action is needed:

• As future changes will inevitably force a relocation of economic activity
• Because at the local level, residents can devise solutions well adapted to their own situation and then take action
• Because it is at this level that greater togetherness can be more easily achieved in pursuing initiatives actively
• Because it is unrealistic to rely solely on support from the central government or huge organisations which are often too rigidly bureaucratic to be of any practical use.

Exhibit 2: Eating locally produced food requires consumers to eat fruit and vegetables when they are in season, here’s a guide to consuming carrots seasonally.

consume-local1 final

Source: This poster was produced by Zoo, designers graphiques for the purpose of promoting local food production.

Does such a movement necessarily remain low key and marginal ? Or can it become part of the mainstream? How can this sort of initiative provide realistic and effective solutions to problems which, according to climatologists, will inevitably lead to the acceleration of global warming? What steps are necessary to raise the awareness of people and consumers on a broader scale, so that these solutions can be implemented? Which tools, techniques and technologies should be used to achieve these goals?

At the moment, it is difficult to answer all these questions. Tomorrow’s world, despite the uncertainties and the threat of global warming, will nevertheless offer as yet unexplored opportunities for progress and innovation. [divider] [/divider]

That is what BNP Paribas Investment Partners’ environmental funds are about – enabling at all levels the development of solutions that can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This article was written by Alexandre Jeanblanc in Paris on 1 July 2016

Alexandre Jeanblanc

Investment Specialist, SRI

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