In 2009 a programme –“Re-thinking Society in a Post-carbon Society”– steered jointly by the Foresight Department of the French Ecology Ministry and the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), was launched in France. It is still ongoing and aims to produce a final report in 2013. The idea of a transition towards a “post-carbon” society includes four main objectives: reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to one quarter of what they were in 1990; near-autonomy with regard to carbon energies (petrol, gas, coal); an adequate capacity to adapt to climate change and, lastly, greater attention to situations of “energy precariousness”.
As part of the dossier Futuribles is devoting to this programme this month, Cédric Allio, Henri Waisman and Jean-Charles Hourcade present here the study carried out by CIRED (International Research Center on Environment and Development) on the role played by local action in the post-carbon transition. The authors begin by reminding us of the importance of the transport sector in the increase in energy demand and in greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to bring about significant changes in individuals’ mobility behaviours if a post-carbon transition on a substantial scale is to be achieved. To do this, local initiatives could be crucial, given their impact on the spatial organization of territories, and could complement the measures put in place at higher levels (national, European or global). This is what clearly emerges from the model developed by CIRED to study the interactions between local and global levels in the post-carbon transition and to provide a macroeconomic frame for the scenarios envisaged in the “Post-carbon Cities” programme. The authors offer a comparison of two scenarios for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050, but doing so by very different transition processes, and they show how, in these two contexts, local and global actions are interconnected and how that connection and a correct spacing of actions over time are crucial for carrying through a post-carbon transition.