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Shifting the Focus: Is adaptation the key to mainstreaming action on climate change?

Shifting the Focus: Is adaptation the key to mainstreaming action on climate change? 

Greener Transport Council Webinar

Thursday 27th June 9:30 to 11:00 – Zoom

Click here to Register

Join us for this webinar where we discuss new approaches to galvanising action around climate breakdown and the mobility transition.


  • Professor Jillian Anable, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds and Greener Transport Council
  • Rupert Read, Majority Project
  • Professor Rebecca Willis, Lancaster University

Chair: Professor Greg Marsden, Chair of Greener Transport Council

About the Webinar

In 2019, Extinction Rebellion instigated a new national conversation about the climate emergency. Their high-profile public protests, alongside movements such as School Strikes and, most recently, Just Stop Oil who take direct action, have arguably succeeded in raising the profile of the climate crisis and the lack of action on it. In the interim period. the science has become conclusive that to achieve our climate commitments for transport, there is a need for a balanced pathway that includes complete electrification of the road fleet and significant change in how we move and connect as a society. How this is communicated is critical. 

Current opinion polls leave no doubt that there is a saturation of awareness of the issues and even the solutions. This suggests there is a majority in favour of climate action. However, raising awareness of the urgency and placing the onus on individuals to drive or fly less in order to benefit public health or the environment does not chime with the public, who resent the perceived heavy hand of the state. One of the most significant barriers to individual change is people’s sense that their own behaviours are insignificant in the face of a lack of collective action and inconsistent signals from policy and business. As the Scottish Government moves to abandon its 20% car traffic reduction target and the DfT pivot to the ‘war on motorist’ narrative, it would seem that the protest movements over the past half a decade have moved us no further forward. 

So, is it time for a change in approach? The Greener Transport Council is exploring how we change the public and political debate in a way that mainstreams the possibility of and faith in taking action. It is possible that one way of galvanising this is to move away from an emphasis on (often perceived as sacrificial) ‘behaviour change’, and to focus on strategic adaptation. The focus would switch to the various legitimate demands that the climate emergency is already, and will increasingly present us with. The development of a culture of resilience could wake all actors up to the issues and the actions which need to happen right now and be immediately incorporated into decision making in order to reduce future social and financial cost. By facing into the crisis in this way, areas of collectively responsibility may be more effectively mobilised to address both adaptation and mitigation solutions. It may expose Business as Usual thinking as untenable and undesirable.

This Greener Transport webinar and facilitated discussion debates the merits of such a re-focus and how it could be achieved. It asks:

  1. How does transport planning and policy move away from planning for business as usual and instead think about how to respond to different legitimate demands which the climate emergency will throw up?
  2. What is the scope for the role of different forms of public dissent in a new approach? In April 2024 for example, a group representing older women in Switzerland was successful in taking the Swiss Government to the European Court of Human Rights for failing to take action to protect them from the risks of overheating. 
  3. Could an approach based on strategic adaptation approach lead to collective action and are there places already doing this?


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