A socio-technical transition perspective on positive tipping points in climate change mitigation
This paper engages with climate mitigation debates on positive tipping points, which attract increasing attention but remain divided between technological and social tipping point approaches. Building on recent attempts to overcome this dichotomy, the paper develops a socio-technical transitions perspective which shows how co-evolutionary interactions between techno-economic improvements and actor reorientations can significantly accelerate diffusion. Mobilising insights from political science, discourse theory, business studies, consumption theory, and innovation studies, we elaborate the Multi-Level Perspective to articulate seven feedback loops in tipping point dynamics. We illustrate and test our co-evolutionary perspective with two case studies, UK offshore wind and electric vehicles. These case studies not only demonstrate the importance of interacting feedback loops, but also show a contrasting sequence in tipping point dynamics, with substantial techno-economic deployment preceding major actor reorientations in offshore wind, while following them in the EV case. The cases also indicate the crucial roles of policymakers in low-carbon tipping point dynamics as well as the importance of policy learning and social, political, and business feedbacks in strengthening and reorienting policy support.
Authors Frank Geels, Martina Ayoub