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Photos: Niclas Jessen and Line Ørnes Søndergaard, Ritzau Scanpix

Transition or transformation?

The visions expressed in the interviews can be arranged on a scale from incremental change to radical change. In this report, we will refer to this scale as a question of transition versus transformation. The different viewpoints will be briefly described below. 

The change will not be big for most people.
Interview in the project Nordic Stocktake and Visions – Pathways to climate neutrality

Some visions of the climate neutral Nordic society describe a future that is very recognizable – with societies very similar to the existing ones in the Nordic countries. Some things will have changed on the path towards climate neutrality, for example continuing existing developments in electrifying transport, production processes and the circular economy, and how we sort and manage waste, but most things are the same – simply decarbonized.  
For the individual, change will not be perceived as extreme nor abrupt. It will be a gradual transition, where technological advancements and implementation of existing solutions will help us achieve climate neutrality. It is also a transition that to a large degree does not require individual sacrifices on how we live and act.
In this vision, change towards a climate neutral future will feel natural. There will inevitably be resistance to change but after a certain period of time, people will ask themselves: was it ever any different? We might see changes from owning to sharing, renting and buying services in e.g. housing and mobility. And digital platforms may enable changes in markets. Some jobs will have been replaced or changed, maybe as a cause of developments in AI and similar technology. But the majority of the changes will only have made it easier for the individual.  

It is a transformation, not only a transition. It requires rethinking.
Interview in the project Nordic Stocktake and Visions – Pathways to climate neutrality

At the opposite end of the scale, we no longer talk about a transition but instead a transformation to a different society. In these visions, we have changed fundamental aspects about our society on the path towards climate neutrality. Transformation – as opposed to transition – would require larger sacrifices and implies disruptive changes. But these short-term changes and disruptions have allowed us to realize a host of other benefits in the process. The co-benefits will be described in further detail throughout this report. In this perspective, climate change is only one out of a range of reasons for the transformation towards a climate neutral society.
The transformation could be a transformation away from things that are destructive to the planet and human well-being and towards things that are much more conducive to human well-being. In this society, products are not just produced, transported, used, and re-used in a climate neutral way, it is also a society where the sustainable choice is the default and easy choice. 

The focus should shift towards these fundamental, radical systemic transitions that we will need in the next couple of years if we are really serious about curbing the trend … about going to a planet that will stay livable in an equitable way.
Hans Bruyninckx, discussions at COP27 in the Nordic Pavilion

In a more transformative version of the vision of the Nordic climate neutral society, we have taken a holistic and systemic approach to achieving climate neutrality. We have recognized that social and environmental goals are indivisible and connected. In the understanding that we needed to do things differently, the transformation became a drive for innovation and development.
Despite this transformation implying radical change compared to today, it will not necessarily be conceived as radical. Many of the habits that structure our everyday life today have not been around for very long and as such, they are all changeable. This is often forgotten. And since the transformation that these visions describe is also a learning process, we will not think back on it as a process of radical change. More as a natural change towards a better society. 
In this vision, the core values of society are different compared to today. They will have been reevaluated in the transformation towards climate neutrality. Markers of success and wealth might be very different. It might be less about material wealth and material consumption and more about social wealth and consumption of experiences and less resource intensive services. As such, the transformation would entail a cultura social transition where we revalue what we think is important in life.

Everyone's just waiting for a technical solution to save us … so we can just continue to make more, produce more, to consume more, to travel more, without having to let go of anything.
Interview in the project Nordic Stocktake and Visions – Pathways to climate neutrality

What does your vision of a climate neutral society look like?
When you think of society in a climate neutral future, how different is that society from the one you currently live in?