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Movements shaping climate futures: A systematic mapping of protests against fossil fuel and low-carbon energy projects

By Leah Temper, Sofia Avila, Daniela Del Bene, Jennifer Gobby, Nicolas Kosoy, Philippe Le Billon, Joan Martinez-Alier, Patricia Perkins, Brototi Roy, Arnim Scheidel and Mariana Walter


In this article we undertake a systematic mapping of 649 cases of resistance movements to both fossil fuel (FF) and low carbon energy (LCE) projects, providing the most comprehensive overview of such place-based energy-related mobilizations to date. We find that (1) Place-based resistance movements are succeeding in curbing both fossil-fuel and low-carbon energy projects. Over a quarter of projects encountering social resistance have been cancelled, suspended or delayed. (2) The evidence highlights that low carbon, renewable energy and mitigation projects are as conflictive as FF projects, and that both disproportionately impact vulnerable groups such as rural communities and Indigenous peoples. Amongst LCE projects, hydropower was found to have the highest number of conflicts with concerns over social and environmental damages. (3) Repression and violence against protesters and land defenders was rife in almost all activities, with 10% of all cases analysed involving assassination of activists. Violence was particularly common in relation to hydropower, biomass, pipelines and coal extraction. Wind, solar and other renewables were the least conflictive and entailed lower levels of repression than other projects. The results caution that decarbonization of the economy is by no means inherently environmentally innocuous or socially inclusive. We find that conflicts and collective action are driven by multiple concerns through which community mobilization seeks to reshape the energy regime and its impacts. These include claims for localization, democratic participation, shorter energy chains, anti-racism, climate-justice-focused governance, and Indigenous leadership. Climate and energy policymakers need to pay closer attention to the demands and preferences of these collective movements pointing to transformative pathways to decarbonization.


Environmental Justice, Just Transitions, Low-carbon Energy Projects, Energy Transition, Fossil Energy.


How to Cite

Temper et al, 2020. Movements shaping climate futures: A systematic mapping of protests against fossil fuel and low-carbon energy projects. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 15 (12).

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