From our members

Special Project: (Net Zero Emission Transition) Lecture Series

How to bring about exnovation and enable true systemic transitions? When governance for decarbonization gets tricky

​​​​​​Speaker: Professor Philipp Späth, University of Freiburg, Germany

Moderator: Professor Shuanping Dai, Jilin University, China

Date: July 15, 2022

Time: 15:30-17:30 (Beijing Time)/ 9:30-11:30(Central European Time)

To join the Series, please ask a coordinator in your institution about the ZOOM link.


As multiple crises demonstrate recently, the current way in which societies interact with ecosystems and natural resources cannot be maintained any longer. To the contrary, very fundamental transformations of our economies and lifestyles are required in order to enable a safe life on this planet also in the future. To orchestrate such systemic transformations is an unprecedented challenge to collective action. While politicians in the past preferred to promise that new technologies will allow to achieve such transformations without anybody being negatively impacted, the urgency of mitigating and adopting to climate change, for example, requires now to accept very quick changes that will require many people to change jobs, move to different places, and give up beloved habits. To actively bring about such changes, is much more demanding than to just foster innovation, which is why exnovation, which involves the intentional destabilization of established economic structures, is rarely talked about, especially in democratic contexts. Using contemporary policies in Germany and the EU as examples, Philipp addresses some key challenges of and experiences with such attempts and deduces some recommendations for political actors of different sorts.

Philipp Späth is associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Social Sciences and Geography at Freiburg University and heads a research group on Urban Environmental Governance. Trained as a geographer and political scientist, he has obtained a PhD in Science and Technology Studies in 2009. His main research interest lies on multi-level governance of socio-technical change, and how technological futures are shaped and contested. Following a strong interest in energy politics since the late 1990s, he has critically engaged with the emerging scholarship in sustainability transitions since its early days. One of the projects he is currently involved in is