DecarboN8 International Conference 2021

‘Real Zero’ in a Hurry: place-based decarbonisation for transport

With COP26 rapidly approaching, there is an urgent need for a radical rethink around transport – the one major sector where emissions have remained stubbornly high. With this in mind, abstracts and proposals for panels and sessions are invited for the DecarboN8 International Conference on place-based decarbonisation for transport, taking place online from 13 to 17 September 2021.



About the Conference

How can we shift from three decades of drift in climate policy in the transport sector to move to rapid, deep and early reductions in emissions in line with the carbon budgets implied by the Paris Agreement? How can the theoretical pathways be translated into socially deliverable actions? Or do we need a different basis for planning this radical transition?

Climate change is a global problem but getting transport to zero emissions will require coordination across international, national, regional, and local jurisdictions. Different places face different transport challenges, have different resources, and will require different solutions. Too often however, technological pathways assume away the important geographical, historical, technological and sociological contexts which shape what will work where and how any such decisions will impact across populations. The DecarboN8 network was established specifically to develop a place-based understanding of decarbonisation. This conference builds on DecarboN8’s experiences, seeks to challenge broad-brush technocratic approaches to climate change, and to promote the development of a place-based understanding of socially just transition to zero carbon transport.

The DecarboN8 Conference welcomes contributions from around the world to look at what works where (and why) and what will need to be done to deliver the transition. The conference invites contributions from across the spectrum of interests and interventions required to deliver the radical change needed. It looks upstream to whole life-cycle implications, across to the integration with wider energy systems, as well as addressing how we move people and goods and how much mobility that might entail. It welcomes analysis of people, communities, activities, businesses and governments as key actors.

Two elements mark out this conference as different from other decarbonisation events. First, is the emphasis on place-based thinking. This is about understanding how rapid decarbonisation is actually going to work on the ground. The second (related) emphasis is on societal readiness. How can transport decarbonisation be delivered in ways that enhance, rather than detract from, human wellbeing and flourishing? What about people, communities, cultures and generations who are often forgotten in discussions about transport? How do different people experience and interact with different mobility systems and expectations – past, present, and future – and how can such understandings inform action?

The DecarboN8 International Conference’s framing is ‘Real Zero’. Many nations have set ‘Net Zero’ targets which allow creative carbon accounting: promising that today’s carbon overspend will be paid off by future generations through expensive and as-yet unproven (at scale) negative emissions technologies. For us ‘Net Zero’ can imply inaction and the privileging of emissions for aviation, which has huge equity implications. Our focus is on how to reduce emissions from transport to ‘Real Zero’ to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Call for papers, panels and sessions

This is a transdisciplinary conference and proposals are actively encouraged from academics from all disciplines and from everyone involved in and interested in the challenge of decarbonising transport.

The conference invites proposals for three types of contributions:

  1. Academic papers
  2. Pre-constituted panels
  3. Participatory / creative sessions

1.  Academic Papers

Abstracts are invited from academics from all disciplines. The conference is arranged around four thematic streams, however we welcome proposals from individuals or teams interested in coordinating additional pre-constituted panels which do not neatly fit within any of the streams below.

We are exploring options for publishing conference proceedings and a special issue. If you are invited to present you will be given the option of submitting your full paper for publication.

Stream 1: Decarbonising Activities and Places

This stream invites papers which address how we decarbonise our activities. Whilst much of the focus in transport is on the commute, we need to decarbonise all journeys including how we access goods, leisure activities and business travel. We invite papers which address topics such as:

  • Localisation
  • 15 minute neighbourhoods
  • Last-mile freight solutions
  • Staycations and slow-tourism and holidaying
  • Shared-mobility solutions for work and leisure
  • Rethinking work and business travel
  • Consideration of what could, should and must disappear
  • Business parks, town centres, resorts
  • Virtual/low-carbon engagement with distant family & friends

Other topics are welcome, but we encourage all submitters to engage with the spatial context and to consider the preparedness of society and its institutions to advance these agendas. Rural, peri-urban and urban cases are all in scope.

Stream 2: Technologies and Places

This stream concentrates on the integration of technologies into rapid decarbonisation pathways. In particular we are interested in papers which explore how different technological options fit with different types of places – moving beyond flat, average projections of uptake. Papers which look across communities and geographies will be welcome, including the justice implications of approaches. We are also interested in debates about when standardisation across places is important and what the implications of that will likely be. Papers may address themes such as:

  • Internal combustion engine replacement – strategies for electrification, options for hydrogen usage and tensions or complementarities
  • Electrification strategies – including those which challenge like-for-like ICE replacement
  • The development and acceptance of hydrogen infrastructures
  • Tensions between electric and hydrogen transport
  • New mobility services – including sharing of assets and in-use mobility
  • Low energy modes – active travel, light electric vehicles
  • Matching modes and technologies across contexts – how similar or different might the transition be?
  • Business models which ensure a more equitable access to low carbon options
  • A triage approach – how do we prioritise access to limited decarbonised electricity/energy

Stream 3: Cross-silo Thinking

Given the challenges of decarbonising transport, looking at carbon from the movement of people and goods is tough enough. However, the carbon we produce is a by-product of movement to take part in everyday life, and any transport intervention will have impacts beyond carbon: on health, green space, economic development, safety, or well-being. There are also important institutional siloes which can act to limit our focus to “tailpipe emissions”, whilst fundamental questions remain about how many vehicles are built, and how much and what infrastructure is required to accommodate our movement, etc. This stream invites papers which integrate thinking on carbon management with wider public policy agendas. Topics might include:

  • Whole life emissions assessments of policy plans
  • Evidence on well-being and physical activity impacts of decarbonisation policies
  • Studies of multi-sector and multi-agency funding to deliver greater outcomes
  • Innovative planning approaches which achieve lower carbon homes with less car-based travel
  • Re-imagining town and city centres in response to retail sector shifts
  • The widespread merits and drawbacks of ‘active travel’
  • Embodied carbon benchmarks for transport infrastructure

Stream 4: Governing the Decarbonisation of Transport

This stream invites papers which tackle questions around building the commitment to urgently deliver a zero carbon pathway. It addresses both technical analysis which promote the need for a multi-scalar approach to decarbonisation and deals with the scale of ambition required by different actors or places. It also, importantly, invites contributions which explore ways in which communities and businesses have been engaged in co-developing policy and solutions. Papers should critically engage with existing planning and policy approaches.

  • What role have citizen assemblies had on local/regional/national action?
  • What influence has declaring a climate emergency had?
  • How joined up are action plans across scales and how important is this?
  • Is anywhere planning to go fast enough? What is different there?
  • How are differences in start points and transport options being taken into account in funding and policy responses?

2.  Pre-constituted panels

We invite proposals for pre-constituted panels on any topic related to decarbonising transport.

Pre-constituted panels should have no more than 4 speakers and are required to provide their own chair or facilitator. We strongly encourage proposals to consider diversity and gender balance in the composition of pre-constituted panels.

You may wish to propose a pre-constituted panel rather than to submit a single abstract for reasons such as (but not limited to):

  • You wish to organise a panel to be delivered in a language other than English
  • Your topic does not fit neatly into the 4 streams outlined above
  • There is a particular set of ideas you wish to bring into conversation
  • You wish to organise a panel to discuss and launch a new book

We reserve the right to reject certain abstracts in pre-constituted panels and to reconstitute the panels in different ways where necessary.

3.  Participatory / Creative Sessions

We invite creative proposals for online sessions on any topic relevant to decarbonising transport, including but not limited to:

  • Workshops
  • Games
  • Data hackathons
  • Participatory mapping
  • Exhibitions
  • Audio/visual recordings (particularly from Early Career Researchers)
  • Poster presentations (particularly from Early Career Researchers)
  • Debates
  • Practitioner cases
  • Wikipedia edit-a-thons
  • ‘Introduction to…’ and ‘How to…’ training sessions
  • Streamed performances
  • Literary contributions (short fiction, poetry, etc.)
  • Making workshops (subvertising, zines, patches, memes, posters, creative writing)
  • Any other session you can run online related to decarbonising transport

How to propose a paper, panel or session

Click here to submit your abstract, panel, or session proposal.

We recommend that you prepare your abstract, panel or session description in advance, so you can quickly paste it into the system.

The description fields are limited to 1800 characters (including spaces) so please bear this in mind when preparing your material.

For those proposing a panel or session in a language other than English – please note that titles, panel/session descriptions and abstracts are requested in both English and the language of delivery, to support both the selection process and the composition of the programme. You should prepare both versions in advance of submitting your proposal.

The submission system will remain open until 5pm (BST) Thursday 10th June 2021.

We will let you know whether your submission has been accepted by no later than 13 July 2021

Please save the dates 13-17 September 2021 in your calendar as, if successful, your contribution may be scheduled for any of those days. 

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