The Politics of Green Transformations


It’s a crunch year for science, environment and development agreements – COP21, the Sustainable Development Goals – but will 2015 be the transformative moment it is being hyped as?

(Michael Jacobs, Mariana Mazzucato, Camilla Toulmin and Andrew Simms debate at the book launch. Photo credit: Lance Bellers)

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Technologies such as renewable energy, coupled with market incentives to encourage switching from high-carbon patterns, are being heavily promoted as solutions to avert imminent planetary disaster.

But a new ESRC STEPS Centre book being launched on 24 February, The Politics of Green Transformations, challenges the assumption that green transformations can be either solely market or technology-driven.

Technical and market fixes may help with transitions to greener economies, but it does not amount to transformation, particularly transformation that is both green and just, argue the book’s editors, Ian Scoones, Director of the STEPS Centre, Melissa Leach, Director of the Institute of Development Studies and Peter Newell, University of Sussex.

“Talk of transformation is back in vogue. This time the call is for a green transformation, but what would one look like and who will bring it in to being? While such a discussion implies a key role for technology and markets, it is also deeply political. What makes it political, and which and whose politics will shape the sorts of transformations that are desirable and possible?” they ask in their opening chapter.

From the key role for green entrepreneurial states to the vitality of citizen movements in driving change, the authors assert the green transformation is like no other we have witnessed so far. And it needs the kinds of radical new solutions discussed in this book.

book cover The-Politics-of-Green Book

Multiple ‘green transformations’ are required if humanity is to live sustainably on planet Earth. Recalling past transformations, this book examines what makes the current challenge different, and especially urgent.

Contributing authors

Erik Millstone, Andy Stirling, Matthew Lockwood, Adrian Smith, Adrian Ely, Mariana Mazzucato, Stephen Spratt, Hubert Schmitz, Ian Scoones, Melissa Leach and Peter Newell.

Order the book at a 20% discount online: use code DC361

Launch debate


The Politics of Green Transformations was launched on 24 February 2015 with a high-profile debate at the National Liberal Club in London, chaired by Peter Newell.

Michael Jacobs (IDDRI), Mariana Mazzucato (University of Sussex, pictured right), Andrew Simms (NEF) and Camilla Toulmin (IIED) discussed what it takes to create the multiple ‘green transformations’ required if humanity is to live sustainably on planet Earth.

Watch the debate


To coincide with the launch of the book,  we are running blogs about the issues it covers.


Related work


  1. I’m not sure this blog gives a sense of the ideas needed to get any real green transformation, with the word ‘policy’ omitted. I’m sure the book is better but the impression is of an academic community that professes knowledge it doesn’t really have about a transformation that hasn’t really started.

    Market fixes for example haven’t really started. All the supposed market initiatives for climate have made no detectable difference to the suicidal trajectory of carbon concentrations. The policies to fix markets, that should come from academics, are missing SFAIK; stuck in dead-end debates about eco-taxes and the evils of economic growth. We might as well be saying we’re only interested in green transformation if it can be done using the same old ideas that haven’t worked and don’t themselves transform over the years?

    It would be good to see blog, books and academic work that acknowledges the gap between the ideas everyone goes on about and the ready-to-use policy proposals that would be needed to create both the market and non-market transformations at the necessary scale and speed. Perhaps I’m missing all this – please let me know!

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