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Upscaling from the grassroots: potential aggregate carbon reduction from community-based initiatives in Europe

Federico Martellozzo, David M. Landholm, Anne Holsten
Regional environmental change 2019 v.19 no.4 pp. 953-966
anthropogenic activities, carbon, climate change, greenhouse gases, industry, issues and policy, lifestyle, Europe
Anthropogenic activities are mainly responsible for the accelerated pace and magnitude of global environmental and climate change. Although several programs aiming at fuelling climate change mitigation have been adopted internationally in the last decades and localized improvements have been observed, the results expected by international institutions are regrettably still out of reach. Meanwhile, societies have experienced a significant proliferation of community-based initiatives (CBIs) fostering sustainable societal transition through different practices. Some studies claim that bottom-up activities may address sustainability issues more efficiently than top-down policies when appropriately scaled up. However, these are based mostly on anecdotal local evidence, and a systematic evaluation of the extent of CBIs’ potential contribution to climate change mitigation action at a larger scale has never been investigated. This paper elaborates a scaling-up exercise for CBIs’ carbon reduction at a broader scale and presents results about potential implications for European countries. Our findings suggest that, although varying greatly among countries, CBIs’ contribution to reach GHG reduction targets at the European scale can be important. However, a carbon reduction of such magnitude requires a substantial societal engagement in sustainable activities. Although societies cannot rely solely on the scaling-up of lifestyle changes promoted by CBIs to fulfill future environmental targets, policy makers should not neglect the large potential of societal engagement and should try to facilitate synergies between CBIs, industries, and institutions in developing climate change mitigation action.