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Grassroot movements and climate change to be explored in new project


The ability of local grassroots movements to influence climate and energy change will be explored in a new research project at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg.

Protest sign with the message: There is no planet B

Titled Grassroots initiatives for energy transition - impacts, obstacles, and success factors, the project will be led by Rikard Warlenius, senior lecturer in human ecology at the School of Global Studies. It was recently awarded a SEK 6.2 million grant from the Swedish Energy Agency. Five researchers from different universities in Sweden will participate in the project, which spans for over three years.

What is your project about?

“We want to better understand the importance that local grassroot organisations have and can have in the climate and energy change. In Gothenburg, for example, there are many movements that work for change on different levels. They promote cycling, less consumption, renewable energy, counter food waste etc. What impact do they have on actual greenhouse gas emissions, both directly, through their actions, and indirectly through influencing other people and political decisions? How are their results affected by local conditions, and how can politics promote such movements? To get perspective, it's always good to compare. Therefore, we will compare similar movements and their context in two cities: Gothenburg and Berlin,” says Rikard Warlenius.

What do you hope the research can lead to?

“We hope to get fairly clear answers to our questions, and that this knowledge will be used both for grass roots in transition movements and, for example, municipalities and regions, so that they mutually reinforce each other's work and help us reach the climate goals. Therefore, an important part of the project is about spreading the knowledge out into society.”

Why did you choose to study this?

“Ultimately, I think it is our concern about climate change. We know how urgent it is to start drastically reducing emissions if we are to achieve the climate goals, yet relatively little is happening. It’s therefore important to study the movements that actually do something and see if their success can be scaled up. The grassroots perspective is also important for the legitimacy of the transition. We have seen, especially in recent years, that if climate policy is enforced too much from the top down without regard to the anchoring and justice aspects, then there is a risk of protests against the policies. If the policies are well anchored in civil society, the risk of such setbacks may also decrease,” says Rikard Warlenius.

More information:

Other researchers who are part of the project:

  • Kristina Boréus, professor at the Institute for Housing and Urban Research, Uppsala University
  • Karin Bradley, associate professor at Urban and Regional Studies, KTH Royal Institute of Technology
  • Sofie Tornhill, senior lecturer at the Department of Social Studies, Linnaeus University
  • Martin Emmanuel, researcher at the Department of Economic History, Uppsala University