Locating net zero emissions: An ethnographic comparison of local approaches to community-scale carbon neutrality
The goal of global net zero emissions has emerged as a powerful unifying narrative connecting the science and policy of climate change. Achieving this global outcome requires choices about how and where to cut greenhouse gas emissions relative to protecting and enhancing carbon sinks, and changes to human activities – and the ecological, social and technical systems in which they are embedded – across multiple layers of society and from local to global scales.
Stephen Pollard's PhD thesis is about how policy actors translate the concept of global net zero emissions into local objectives for “community-scale carbon neutrality”. The study is based on an ethnographic comparison of three very different localities with such goals: the City of Copenhagen, the City of Melbourne and Byron Shire. It applies concepts drawn from anthropology and science and technology studies (STS) to examine social and material factors at play as global policy objectives are translated into local contexts and circumstances. The study generated insights into how low carbon futures are collectively imagined, how boundaries are negotiated around net zero emissions, and how processes of sociotechnical change are enacted and inflected in relation to these goals.
Stephen undertook his undergraduate arts degree at the University of Adelaide with a major in Anthropology. He later completed Honours at the University of Melbourne with research into how rock-climbers perceive nature and manage the environmental impacts of their climbing practices.
Stephen was awarded a Master of Environment from the University of Melbourne in 2011 with a focus on environment policy and urban planning. His thesis examined state of the environment reporting and the relationships between knowledge, power and environmental decision-making.
He worked for the past four years as a policy adviser with the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet across a range of areas including land-use and planning, water, energy, environment and climate change.
PhD Project: Examining transitions to decarbonisation: Understanding processes of social and economic change within European and Australian communities.
Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to zero as early as possible this century in order to limit the degree of climate change, but this simple measure can disguise the myriad of choices about how to achieve this goal. Such choices could catalyse fundamental social and economic transformations, but they could also serve to reinforce existing institutions and structures of power. Stephen’s project examines how transitions towards decarbonisation are taking shape within Australia and Europe and the interplay between the top-down influence of government policies and business decisions and the bottom-up forces of technology, innovation and grassroots actions. His research asks how decarbonisation fits with broader concepts of sustainability and equity, what role the state has in making transitions feasible what can we learn from each other across different contexts and cultures.
Supervisors: Prof John Wiseman and A/Prof Monica Minnegal
Start date: January 2016