Transitions & Transition Management for sustainable development Jan Rotmans OECD, 12-13 December 20-12-2002 WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? • Our society faces...
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Transitions & Transition Management for sustainable development

Jan Rotmans OECD, 12-13 December 20-12-2002

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? • Our society faces structural, wicked problems which cannot be solved with incremental changes agriculture, energy, water, health care, transport, ageing • Increasing societal complexity forces us to think and act in a more innovative manner • System complexity requires new way of looking at the nature of our wicked problems new problem perceptions and solutions • Societal complexity requires a new way of governance new steering paradigm


NEW TYPE OF SOCIETAL PROBLEMS Characterized by large complexity structural uncertainty high stakes steering problems Which cannot be handled by current policies and current research

we need structural changes in our thinking and acting



• • •

A transition is a social transformation process with the following characteristics structural change to society (or complex subsystem of society) a long-term process that covers at least one generation large-scale technological, economic, ecological, socialcultural and institutional developments that influence and strengthen each other interactions between developments at different scale levels


EXAMPLES OF TRANSITIONS • from industrial economy to services economy to knowledge economy • from a communist system to a free market society • from a coal-based energy infrastructure to natural gas energy infrastructure

co-evolutionary process Sociaal-cultural capital

technolog y

culture institutions water



Ecological capital

ecolog y

econom y Economic capital


Transition concept sociological concept

(Davis, 1945)

population dynamics

economic concept

(Rostow, 1960)

from a planned economy to market economy

Innovation technological concept

(Rip, 1998)

multi-level technology dynamics

Integrated Assessment concept

(Rotmans, Kemp 2000)

multi-scale, multi-temporal, multi-domain

THE TRANSITION THEORY • A theory with which the complexity and coherence of broad societal changes can be ordered • An analytical part which deals with the recognition of transition patterns based on multiple causality and co-evolution • A steering part which deals with how to manage transitions into a sustainable direction

searching for the genes of sustainability dynamics


THE TRANSITION THEORY Consists of three pillars » multi-phase concept » multi-level concept » multi-change concept Needs empirical validation

MULTI-PHASE CONCEPT • Pre-development phase dynamic equilibrium with no visible change

• Take-off phase ignition phase where shift begins

• Acceleration phase visible structural changes take place

• Stabilisation phase new dynamic equilibrium is reached


MULTI-PHASE CONCEPT System change indicator



Take-off Pre-development Time


Level of integration, amount of behavioural change

Integrated mobility Personalised public transport Mobility cards and leasing

Advanced collective transport (HST)

Organised car sharing

P + R, bus lanes

Clean and intelligent cars Intelligent Highways

Urban cars Fuel cell vehicles

Car electronics

Anti congestion policies

Reduction in pollution and energy use


MULTI-LEVEL CONCEPT • Macro-level slow societal trends and developments: political culture, worldviews, paradigms, demography

• Meso-level social norms, interests, rules and belief systems that determine strategies of institutions and organisations

• Micro-level niche-level at which individual actors operate


Macro level (landscape)

Meso level (regimes)

Micro level (niches)


MULTI-CHANGE CONCEPT lemniscate of Holling 1. exploitation period of competition between entrepeneurs

2. conservation period of increasing rigidity and increasing connectedness

3. release period of destabilisation through strong feedbacks between revolting elements and established aggregates

4. reorganisation period of innovative experiments with high uncertainty

Hollings “Lemniscate”


MULTI-SCALE CONCEPT Two different phases 1. from exploitation to conservation accumulation of capital pre-development and take-off phase 2. from release to reorganisation innovation and restructuring acceleration and stabilisation phase

USING TRANSITION CONCEPTS we can analyse transition patterns in terms of: 1. temporal dimension speed, size, time period of a transition

2. scale level dimension micro-meso-macro-scale level of a transition

3. nature of change breakdown, innovation and restructuring


Can We Manage Transitions? Yes We can influence and guide the process Direction and speed of transitions

No We cannot command and control transitions Uncertainty and surprises

Transition Management • Evolutionary steering concept governance, interactive government, networking

• Multi-actor governance aims at system innovation and sustainability

• Adaptive and Anticipative management uncertainty and complexity management

• Steering through learning doing-by-learning and learning-by-doing


Transition management network steering and self-steering Present situation: vertical and hierarchical steering

Desired situation: network steering and self steering

Macro developments

Transition management in practice • Establishing and organising an innovation-network • Transition arena of forerunners and innovators

• Developing long-term visions • Transition goals, images and instruments

• Formulating and executing innovation experiments • Learning-by-doing and doing-by-learning


Transition management versus Current Policy Current policy: short-term goals, per period

Transition management: aimed at realising long-term sustainable goals in more than one step

Transition management offers a long-term perspective for short-term actions

Communicating Arenas


Arena for current policy - Short term - Peloton - Incr. improvements - Problem- and goaloriented

Transition Arena - Long term - Frontrunners - Systeminnovation - Problem- and goalsearching


Communication with the home-bases Home base knowledge – institutes

Home base government

Independent facilitator

Transition arena

Home base companies

Networkoriented policy-teams, supported by the management

Home base NGOs

DUTCH CASE-STUDY: TRANSITION TO A SUSTAINABLE ENERGY SUPPLY Study for the Dutch Ministries of the Environment and Economic Affairs

What are the major barriers and chances for this transition? How could it be achieved? What is the role of the Dutch government?


CHANCES AND OBSTACLES FOR DUTCH ENERGY TRANSITION Obstacles • Seems to be no reason for change no calamities / nor direct cause • Abundance of fossil energy sources low energy prices, low investment in alternatives • Kyoto-protocol Netherlands could meet the Kyoto-climate targets (theoretically) • Liberalization short-term focus on cost savings • Fear for lock-in (energy companies)

CHANCES AND OBSTACLES FOR DUTCH ENERGY TRANSITION Chances • Current energy supply is not sustainable detrimental environmental effects • Growing notion in society that a shift towards a more sustainable energy supply is necessary global environmental problems are energy-driven • Netherlands is vulnerable in case of dependency on one energy carrier technological monoculture • Delay of energy transformation leads to future problems future energy supply determined by current R&D investments • Advisory bodies support and promote energy supply transition energy infrastructure has to change fundamentally in the long run


TRANSITION MANAGEMENT FOR LOW EMISSIONS ENERGY SUPPLY Step-wise approach • Formulating common transition goal • Exploring final energy transition images • Formulating intermediate goals • Create public support


• 50% CO2-reduction • structural change of energy infrastructure (innovation) • cleaner energy infrastructure • safer energy infrastructure


EXPLORE FINAL ENERGY IMAGES Three ‘blueprints’ for future Dutch energy supply 1. Status Quo: current infrastructure remains intact, but final energy carriers will be made of sustainable energy sources final energy carriers: primary energy carriers: infrastructure: technologies:

natural gas, oil and electricity sustainable / clean fossil fuel remains the same conversion of biomass/coal

2. Hydrogen: hydrogen as final energy carrier instead of natural gas and oil final energy carriers: primary energy carriers: infrastructure: technologies:

hydrogen sustainable / clean fossil fuel adaptation of natural gas network fuel cells, hydrogen cars

3. All-electric: electricity as final energy carrier in all sectors of society final energy carriers: primary energy carriers: infrastructure: technologies:

electricity sustainable / clean fossil fuel large-scale electricity network elektric heat pumps / electric cars


System innovation






System optimalisation

• Transition management = keep 3 options open by anticipation and timely hooking up and steering • No shock-wise development but gradual changes • No transition management means lock out of certain options


TRANSITION MANAGEMENT IN RELATION TO CURRENT POLICY Transition management ≠ fundamental criticism on current policy, but a means to put current policy into a longer-term transitional perspective For example:

(2) Kyoto as first step to innovation



Kyoto ++


Kyoto as improvement of current system

TRANSITION MANAGEMENT AND CURRENT POLICY Transition perspective adds something to current climate policy

Transition management = current policy + long-term vision + innovation + coherence Current policy (Kyoto and Kyoto+) will lead to lock-out of hydrogen and electric ‘blueprints’ Transition policy management: structured experiments from a long-term vision


Actor analysis for energy case • Opposing viewpoints on future energy supply • energy transition is still in its pre-development phase • None of the actors seem to be willing to take the lead • All actors expect from the government a leading role • Most actors have a preference for status-quo ‘blue print’ a breakthrough is necessary to realise a take-off

WHAT COULD BE THE ROLE OF THE DUTCH GOVERNMENT? Stabilisation phase: Stimulate new regime (consolidation) Take off fase: Mobilize actors (appealing perspectives / quality images) Acceleration phase: Monitor promising developments -> steering among them --> choose

Pre-development phase: - Keep playing field broad - Start up a participative discussion - Strategic niche management


CONCLUSIONS • A transition to a low emissions energy supply seems feasible • This could only be realised in an international context • For the Netherlands this would mean: – – – – – –

no direct forcing of the current energy infrastructure keep open multiple transition ‘blueprints’ complies with Kyoto (and Kyoto+)-goals mobilises relevant actors organises a participatory process on energy transition formulates participatory-based policy corridor (within which major actors could manoeuvre) – coordinates innovative research into new energy carriers – supports local and regional sustainability experiments