UNSW School of Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering
Moving from climate change to system change: Citizen-led social innovations in climate change governance
Jennifer Kent - University of Technology Sydney

Jennifer Kent, at UNSW SPREE, 27 February 2019

Jennifer Kent (53Min)

University of Technology Sydney

Jennifer Kent speaks at UNSW SPREE


Only a small window of time remains if we are to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees with the prospect of catastrophic climate change if we don’t. In Greta Thunberg’s words, why aren’t we panicking? Why are nations failing to take the urgent action required? And why aren’t we, the people, playing our democratic part?

Drawing from my transdisciplinary PhD on Australian Climate Action Groups (CAGs), I will discuss a model of collective agency that draws from two theoretical perspectives: Sustainability transitions theory and deliberative systems. My research addresses the potential of “grassroots innovations” (such as CAGs) engaged in climate change action to impact broader systemic change. Members of CAGs demonstrated how they had overcome constraints to their individual agency of disempowerment, lack of trust in political institutions and political actors, and a lack of reflexivity. Their individual agency was enhanced by their involvement in their group and enabled the development of collective agency. The group bolstered individual members’ confidence around their climate change actions and provided the opportunity to develop, practice and enhance their skills. In many ways CAG members acted as political agents and in the process of group dialogue and deliberation, they practiced democracy. I am interested in how these types of deliberative practices at the local, grassroots scale can contribute to the democratic governance of climate change and transformative social change and how these traits and capabilities could be harnessed to activate agency in the wider community.

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Brief Bio

Dr Jennifer Kent is a sessional academic in environmental management, environmental communication and sustainability at UTS, UNSW and Boston University Sydney with a background in community education. Her research interests span the areas of sustainability transitions, grassroots social innovations and deliberative democracy. In particular she is interested in understanding how grassroots collective voluntary action that addresses the wicked challenge of climate change and continued fossil fuel extraction can contribute to better climate change governance. She completed her transdisciplinary PhD in Sustainable Futures at UTS in 2012. Her research focused on how notions of responsibility for voluntary climate change action are understood and practiced at both the individual and collective level. This work formed the basis of her book, Community Action and Climate Change, published by Routledge in 2015.