Mobilising civil society: can the fossil fuel divestment movement achieve transformational social change?

Fossil Free University of Washington students protest in favour of fossil fuel divestment

Event details


Date & time

Tuesday 16 May 2017


Seminar Room 1.04, Coombs Extension Building (8), Fellows Road, ANU


Neil Gunningham


+61 (0)2 6125 3948

The divestment movement is at the forefront of civil society initiatives to raise public consciousness about climate change. This paper shows how the movement has harnessed grassroots activists, engaged in innovative and disruptive forms of activism and invoked symbolic politics to persuade the public of the importance and legitimacy of its claims. It also shows how the interconnections between the divestment movement and a cluster of others within a ‘governance triangle’ have amplified its effectiveness.

Looking ahead, what else would the movement and its allies need to do to nurture a new norm (go ‘fossil-free’) and prompt a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy? Going beyond the Paris Climate Change Agreement, what would it take to reach a ‘tipping point’ at which, driven by escalating civil society action, pressure from investors and a shift in public opinion, important states begin in earnest to decarbonise their economies?

About the Speaker

Professor Neil Gunningham has degrees in law and criminology from Sheffield University, UK, is a Barrister and Solicitor (ACT) and holds a PhD from ANU. Although initially trained in law, his subsequent post-graduate work was in interdisciplinary social science, and for the last thirty years he has applied that training principally in the areas of safety, health and environment, with a focus on regulation and governance.

Neil’s research has been concerned to identify the contribution that broader, innovative forms of regulation can make to safety, health and environmental policy. He has two current research agendas. The first concerns the role of the fossil fuel divestment movement in climate change mitigation. A second agenda examines the role of financial markets in climate change mitigation and how an ‘energy revolution’ and a rapid transition to a low carbon economy might best be achieved.

For more detail, visit his RegNet profile.

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