Global Coal Transitions Research Coordination Network

The retirement of coal facilities around the world has noteworthy impacts on communities, landscapes, and regional economies. The Global Coal Transitions Research Coordination Network (RCN) assembles a global cadre of social science scholars dedicated to supporting new research into the problems arising from coal transitions in geographic settings. Reflecting the diverse intellectual backgrounds and locations of the coordination network’s members, the proposed activities draws upon and helps to refine scholarship in the areas of equitable transitions, environmental justice, energy justice, community resilience, comparative transitions, and social-technical studies of energy. This RCN positively influences the nature and magnitude of coal transition impacts in the United States and internationally by providing policymakers, community officials, and scholars with coordinated and useful social science to understand and mitigate adverse effects. The involvement of multiple graduate students contributes to the education and training of early-career scientists.

Despite its global nature, research into coal transitions has remained limited, has not spanned international boundaries, and has not been well-integrated into policy discussions. The network will address these problems through activities focused on answering three central questions. First, what are the various impacts incurred by retirements of coal facilities in different national and regional settings? Second, what human-environmental and geographical concepts and methodologies are best suited for studying global coal transitions? Third, how can scholars and stakeholders develop useful research tools and educational resources to enhance the positive impacts of coal transitions research? Supported by a nine-person international steering committee, the RCN collaboratively organizes two workshops and a larger conference open to all interested attendees that leads to the publication of a collection of recommendations and perspectives. These efforts are complemented by a website, research library, listserv, and curriculum modules that broaden the public accessibility of the findings. This RCN brings ethnographically informed global perspectives to address real-world policy debates around energy transitions and aids communities and societies amid a diminished reliance on fossil energy.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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