Our energy system is the major contributor to climate change. At the same time, society is shaped by the way we produce and consume energy. Modern energy sources are rarely visible in our everyday surroundings, yet they enable our form of life and make possible most things we take for granted. Understanding how we are ‘energized’ is crucial to understanding why societies are the way they are, and the possibilities for change.
Geography is essential to understand the interconnected challenges of energy and climate change. The Spaces of climate and energy laboratory (SpaceLab) connects research on the geographies of energy, climate and society. The aim of the lab is to generate an engaging academic and intellectual environment to stimulate high quality research on these issues. It is based at the Department of Geography, University of Bergen.
With funding from Bergen Research Foundation, we are now strengthening our focus on cities and urban transformations in relation to energy and climate change. The project European cities as actors in climate and energy transformations (2016-2020), led by Håvard Haarstad, enables us to conduct a long-term project on the geographical flow of ideas and practices surrounding urban transformations, and look at how these ideas are implemented in cities in Europe. We aim to be an internationally leading research group on urban sustainability transformations.
Broadly, our research agenda revolves around these three themes:
Contested energy spaces: Climate changes and energy production can be socially disruptive. Social and political turmoil related to climate change and energy production often appear to be “local”, but are closely connected with national and global networks and systems.
Urban transformations: Cities are increasingly recognized as critical actors in climate and energy transformations. Around 70% of total energy use takes place in cities, and since the world is rapidly urbanizing, this is expected to grow. The way cities are planned and built is a key determinant for energy consumption and CO2 emissions, but also for other forms of sustainability.
Local responses and solutions: Local authorities – from large cities to small municipalities – are increasingly forced to respond to larger scale processes of change, such as climate change, urbanization and changes in energy systems. The way in which these changes are experienced, perceived and responded to is often overlooked in research on global transformations, yet they are critical to how the changes affect livelihoods.