Climate justice through campaigns for democratic public ownership – movement strategies and local effects in Berlin and Minneapolis

Authors: Michelle Wenderlich*, Clark University
Topics: Urban Geography, Energy, Political Geography
Keywords: Climate justice, participatory democracy, social movements, energy democracy, municipalization, local governance, energy, energy and environment, urban geography, climate change, climate policy, energy transition, cities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Executive Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


If shifts towards neoliberal and securitized strategies of climate urbanism (Long and Rice 2018) can be discerned in many cities worldwide, what are social movement strategies that can counter this? This paper examines how referendum-based social movement campaigns demanding municipalization – including democratizing and decommodifying energy systems – can shift frames in local climate and energy policy, create new discourses, actors and institutions, and possibilities for intervention. The campaigns developed as strategies to implement energy democracy – the idea that ownership, control, and access to energy should be decentralized and democratized in the context of energy transitions to renewables (Angel 2016, Weinrub and Giancatarino 2015, Sweeney 2013). These municipal campaigns are therefore related to broader discussions of climate justice (e.g. Chatterton et al 2012), urban energy transitions (Rutherford and Coutard 2014, Bulkeley 2010) and trends toward remunicipalization (Hall et al 2013, Lobina et al 2014). This type of strategy to force local action as well as follow up with implementation has manifold effects and can be one translocal strategy of climate justice movement to shift economies, priorities, and politicize the energy system towards new visions of social ownership.

What are the dynamics of the resistance to and selective adoption of movement goals of entrenched systems to these new tactics and demands? This paper looks at two places where similar campaigns were undertaken, Berlin and Minneapolis, to examine what has come out of these movements. It is based on 6 months of participatory social movement-based field research in each location.

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