What action can we take, globally, nationally and locally?

Taking Action: The Big Picture – initiatives at Global, National and Local levels:


  • the Oil Depletion Protocol provides a way for nations to cooperatively manage their descent to lower oil use levels. This protocol provides a model for both oil producing and oil consuming countries to systematically reduce global oil consumption. For further information, go to www.oildepletionprotocol.org.
  • Contraction & Convergence offers a mechanism for reducing global carbon emissions and establishing much greater levels of equity in peoples’ and nations’ right to emit carbon. An excellent resource for this scheme is www.climatejustice.org.uk/about/.

National: energy rationing systems appear to hold the greatest promise for reducing our fossil fuel consumption at the national level. The government is already tentatively talking about this highly practical solution. See www.teqs.net for the full story.

Local: this is where local Transition Initiatives play a significant role. In essence, this is a process of relocalising all essential elements that a community needs to sustain itself and thrive. It builds local resilience in the face of the potentially damaging effects of Peak Oil while dramatically reducing the community’s carbon footprint. In this way, it addresses both Peak Oil and Climate Change.

Several cities in the US and well over 100 communities around the world are setting off on their own relocalisation journeys. For example, at the city level, Portland in Oregon (population 550,000) has just published their Peak Oil initial report for public consultation. Their opening paragraph explains their concerns:

    “In the past few years, powerful evidence has emerged that casts doubt on that assumption [that oil and natural gas will remain plentiful and affordable] and suggests that global production of both oil and natural gas is likely to reach its historic peak soon. This phenomenon is referred to as “peak oil.” Given both the continuous rise in global demand for these products and the fundamental role they play in all levels of social, economic and geopolitical activities, the consequences of such an event are enormous.”

Portland has actually incorporated the Oil Depletion Protocol in its targets -it aims to reduce its oil and gas consumption by 2.6% per year, reaching a 25% reduction by 2020.

Here in the UK, a growing number of communities are looking towards the energy descent planning work that began in Kinsale in Ireland and is continuing in Totnes in Devon. There are many excellent examples of energy reduction programmes in place in the UK under the “sustainability” banner. However, it’s only when sustainability principles are combined with an understanding of Climate Change and Peak Oil that a fully integrated approach to the solutions can follow.

The three levels of action – global (oil depletion protocol and C&C), national (tradable energy quotas) and local (transition initiatives) – hold much promise to see humankind through the great energy transition of the 21st century. With cooperation, coordination and a following wind, we have the potential to create a more fulfilling, more equitable and more sustainable world.

The challenge is to find a way to proactively navigate the down-slope of Peak Oil while taking actions to address Climate Change.
As a species, we’ll be transitioning to a lower energy future whether we want to or not. Far better to ride that wave rather than getting engulfed by it.

Extract from “Transition Initiatives Primer” from the Transition Network

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