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Mapping participation in low carbon energy transitions

Bush House North East Wing, Strand Campus, London

13 Feb dry earth Part of Human Geography seminars

Speaker: Dr Helen Pallett, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia 

It is now broadly accepted that citizen participation will be a crucial part of enabling and directing transitions to low carbon energy systems. Academic and practitioner approaches have tended to focus on extending decision-making spaces out to incorporate citizen voices, and in doing this have created or evaluated one-off participation processes which attempt to definitively fix and determine the public perspective on a particular issue.

This talk starts from the contention that this approach is flawed for several reasons: it puts the onus on citizens to translate their perspectives into the registers and issue framings of decision-makers; it focuses resources on a narrow set of practices of invited participation – often just on a single event – ignoring a much broader set of potentially relevant practices and instances of energy participation which are in train; and it puts no obligation on decision-makers to meaningfully interpret and respond to the insights and concerns of citizens. In contrast, an emerging set of approaches seek to map systems, landscapes and ecologies of participation around a given system or issue, offering a productive alternative to this dominant approach. They provide a better evidence base for understanding a diversity of citizen perspectives and actions around low carbon energy transitions, and can spot both emergent and more dominant or widespread trends. These approaches also put the onus back on decision-makers to account for citizen perspective and actions in their work.

In this talk, examples will be given of how these emerging approaches are being used in practice, including a recent UK Energy Research Centre project conducted by the speaker and colleagues at the 3S Research Group at the University of East Anglia.

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