Research Handbook on Global Climate Constitutionalism
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Research Handbook on Global Climate Constitutionalism

Edited by Jordi Jaria-Manzano and Susana Borrás

Climate change is causing traditional political and legal concepts to be revisited. The emergence of a global polity through physical, economic and social interaction demands global responses which should be founded upon new principles and which cannot simply be modelled on traditional constitutionalism centred on the nation-state. This Research Handbook explores how to build this climate constitutionalism at a global level, starting from the narrative of Anthropocene and its implications for law. It provides a critical approach to global environmental constitutionalism, analysing the problems of sustainability and global equity which are entwined with the causes and consequences of climate change. The Handbook explores how to develop constitutional discourses and strategies to address these issues, and thereby tackle the negative effects of climate change whilst also advancing a more sustainable, equitable and responsible global society.
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Chapter 15: Energy transition: reforming social metabolism

Melissa Powers


For the world to have any chance of preventing runaway climate change and keeping human-caused temperature increases to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, societies must commit to rapid and deep decarbonization that will transform global and domestic energy systems. Complete energy decarbonization would result in an unprecedented change to the world’s ‘social metabolism’, altering not only the amount of fossil fuel-based energy the world consumes, but also entire social and economic systems involved in resource extraction, processing, delivery and use. Energy decarbonization has the potential to bring much more justice, opportunity and sustainability to communities around the world. However, this will not happen without an intentional focus on the full social metabolism of the energy system. Failure to address the social implications of the energy transition could result in profound economic and social unrest. It could also delay the necessary behavioural and political changes that societies must undertake to effectively and equitably decarbonize. An incomplete energy transition could also place already imperilled ecosystems at increased risk of degradation and loss. Policymakers should therefore undertake a comprehensive approach to energy decarbonization that aims to rapidly replace fossil fuels with zero-carbon energy resources while improving the economic and social welfare of communities around the globe. The ‘just transition’ efforts underway in some countries could serve as a template for governments, policymakers, businesses, non-governmental organizations and others to develop smart and adaptive strategies to ensure a socially just, yet rapid, energy transition. While this may not completely reform the social metabolism, it could help us to reset it.

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