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What is ‘transition’?

  • by JW

“Here’s what world leaders need to know, though. Transition is not just an aspiration, it’s practical action. Community-owned renewables, local food, sharing resources, building systems that work for everyone. Communities must be involved – the scale of change needed can’t only come from the top.” [Transition Together]


The recent COP28 gathering agreed to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels. But, as Sky News pertinently asked: What does the COP28 deal to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels actually mean?

There was agonising debate over the phrasing of the agreement’s clause on fossil fuels, with “transitioning away” eventually chosen over “phase out” or “phase down”.It means that renewable energy will increase and be gradually substituted for fossil fuels across all global energy systems, according to Professor David Reay, expert in carbon management at the University of Edinburgh and co-chair of the Just Transition Commission. He tells Sky News that unlike “phase out” there is no determined end point to a “transition”, with the language chosen to cater for countries still heavily reliant on fossil fuels without the economic means to adapt as quickly as others.

Professor Ilan Kelman, an expert in disasters and health at University College London, adds that most countries, including the UK and the US, have been “transitioning away from fossil fuels” for decades. “This is simply the international community saying we agree that we are transitioning and will continue to transition. But what does it mean? Not a lot unless we act on it. It’s just legal terminology. We’ve had similar wording in agreements before that haven’t been acted on.” Professor Kelman adds: “It’s really up to governments, companies, non-profits and individuals to enact it and ensure they go forward with it.”

So, it’s up to all of us at all levels to ‘transition’ from one thing to another.

At local government level, there is the East Devon District Council Climate Change Strategy – which sees the transition as a positive and as something which has to be done at every level:

The transition to a low carbon place also presents significant economic opportunities and it will be important to take steps to capture economic benefits locally. We recognise the importance of our leadership in supporting and enabling the development and delivery of local solutions to help address these global problems. This Strategy sets out our commitment and ambition for delivering the transition to a low carbon and climate resilient, East Devon District Council.

Local organisations and communities cannot do this alone as national government plays a key role in many of the policy areas that are vital to reducing emissions and adapting to climate change. We call on government to prioritise decarbonisation and adaptation within decision making and work with us by using its powers to provide the resources and funding necessary to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon and resilient economy and society.

As for how companies can help in this transition, rural businesses are taking action to reduce their impact on the environment, green jobs are ‘soaring’ in the South West and firms are developing green skills for a sustainable future.

Finally, local groups can also engage with local people to help with the transition – and in the Sid Valley that would include the CAPS – Climate Awareness Partnership Sidmouth.

The VGS contribution is its rubric Sustainable Sidmouth and being part of the Transition Town movement:

It was in 2008 that the Vision Group formally took on ‘Transition Town’ status: Sept 2008 News But why does the VGS have to be part of a larger organisation to realise all of this?

From the Transition Town network website:Transition is a movement that has been growing since 2005.  It is about communities stepping up to address the big challenges they face by starting local.  By coming together, they are able to crowd-source solutions. They seek to nurture a caring culture, one focused on supporting each other, both as groups or as widercommunities.In practice, they are reclaiming the economysparking entrepreneurshipreimagining workreskilling themselves and weaving webs of connection and support.Transition Network

And from Horst Köhler, former German president and former president of the IMF: “I see [Transition] as a wonderful combination of civic local engagement and a worldwide network.  In many towns throughout the world people get together, finding community, enthusiastic about the idea of together envisioning a future model for their town that will make it worth living in.” Former German President waxes lyrical about Transition

Transition Together supports the Transition movement across Britain to develop and grow – and here’s their social media post from yesterday, asking: What is Transition?

Transition hit the headlines when it made the final text at #COP28. As a movement that’s been talking about Transition for almost 20 years, here’s what we mean by it: communities reimagining & rebuilding our world, energy, transport, food systems and more.

It’s from the ground up: people working together locally to address the big complex problems of our time.

Transition is how we get from one thing to another – from a damaging, polluting, unequal present to a fairer, more resilient, regenerative future for all.

Transition means change and transformation, because business as usual isn’t serving us. It’s good to see delegates at COP28 recognise that and catch up with what many communities have been actively doing for many years to #TransitionAway from fossil fuels.

Here’s what world leaders need to know, though. Transition is not just an aspiration, it’s practical action. Community-owned renewables, local food, sharing resources, building systems that work for everyone. Communities must be involved – the scale of change needed can’t only come from the top.

The good news is we don’t need to wait to be led – we’re showing the way. Governments and funders can back the incredible work being done in communities – and unlock more of it – by supporting it, giving it space and resources, listening, learning and amplifying it.

COP28 finally listened to the call to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels. There’s no time to waste, we’re ready, let’s get on with it.