Darren Sharp: A new research report and engagement project explores how Australian cities can achieve rapid decarbonization and increased resilience in the face of climate change. The report, “Visions and Pathways 2040: Scenarios and Pathways to Low Carbon Living,” was led by the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab at the University of Melbourne and funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living. It describes two pathways for cities — Commons Transition and Green Growth — to achieve drastic greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The report paints a new narrative with re-empowered citizens at the vanguard of sweeping social changes already underway in cities around the world.
The vision for the Commons Transition pathway includes rapidly reducing consumption and shifting power structures to democratic and participative communities. The pathway to accomplish this vision, the report states, is for “citizens and communities to create and apply new ways of providing for themselves, building sophistication in how they manage these systems for the common good as peers. Governance and institutions adapt and evolve to operate as a ‘Partner State’ facilitating commons management.”
The Commons Transition Action Pathway attempts to imagine how a post-growth social model might work. How might people live with sufficiency? This pathway suggests that universal access to basic assets like housing and food, and open design distributed manufacturing, provide some answers. The importance of technology in the pathway relates to how successfully cooperative ownership models can be deployed to provide alternatives to platform monopolies like Uber, TaskRabbit, and Airbnb, which leverage data commodification, value extraction, and precarious labor through rent-seeking business models. The technology stack of this scenario rests on data sovereignty, commons-based peer production, and platform cooperativism which provide the elements for an ethical alternative to platform monopolies.
The Green Growth Action pathway explores how political changes of the required magnitude might be triggered by action in cities, within the current economic and political framework. The vision, as outlined in the report, is to ensure “the right policies are in place to incentivize corporate innovation for rapid decarbonization — government and business working together, within the current economic and neoliberal paradigm.” The pathway is for cities to lead, building political pressure to drive changes to state and national policy.
These emerging narratives and movements demonstrate that citizen-led solutions to city challenges along with democratic forms of community ownership and co-governance can drive actions to achieve sustainable urban transformation.
Jose Ramos and I co-wrote the “Commons Transition Action Pathway” drawing on the work of Michel Bauwens, Peer to Peer Foundation, Commons Transiton, Shareable’s “Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons,” urban commons scholars Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione, as well as open design distributed manufacturing, platform cooperatives, and municipalist coalitions taking shape across Europe. Thanks to the report project leadership team: Kirsten Larsen, Seona Candy, Jennifer Sheridan and Chris Ryan. The project has developed tools to facilitate use of these scenarios for individuals and organizations.