New Content Item

Special issue on “The politics of decarbonisation Investigating the carbon-related transformations of production activities, organizations and sectors”

Céline Granjou, Lessem INRAE Grenoble, celine.granjou@inrae.frArnaud Sergent, ETBX INRAE Bordeaux, arnaud.sergent@inrae.frVincent Banos, ETBX INRAE Bordeaux, vincent.banos@inrae.frSylvain le Berre, ETBX INRAE Bordeaux,

The Paris Agreement reached at the COP 21 in 2015 marks the development of a new, promissory climate regime aiming for a global net zero carbon budget in the atmosphere through balancing greenhouse gas emissions and the sequestering capacities of non-atmospheric sinks, such as forests and soils. This “net zero-carbon” regime opens up to a range of practices and agendas aiming to reassess, reorientate and transform the various economic sectors and production activities in light of their place in the global carbon cycle and in relation with their potential for becoming “low-carbon”.

The special issue aims to investigate the emergence of carbon-centred logics and rationales in a range of production activities and sectors including agriculture, forests, and mining. It aims to account for the reconfiguration of production organisations, practices and strategies and business models according to low-carbon objectives and decarbonisation agendas – i.e. in the name of their potential of carbon emission reduction or carbon sequestration in a context of climate change.

Expected contributions will account for the experimentation of new logics of carbon assessment and accountability within various production activities and sectors and how they foster the stabilization of new organizational arrangements and forms of governance. They will develop critical insights into the ambiguities of the politics of decarbonisation of industrial activities and economic sectors – emphasising for instance the impact of reputation strategies and financial capture « in the name » of carbon, and assessing the effective changes in the organisations and governance of these sectors. They will explore the reassessment and rehabilitation of sectors and activities in relation with carbon and climate issues, and emphasize how they may lead to a paradoxical revival of the productionist ethos under a new guise. They will also document how climate and carbon-related issues connect and combine with other issues and strategies such as security, bioeconomy, sovereignty and social acceptability issues.

On the basis of the contributions, the special issue will discuss the shift from a “pollutionist” paradigm, where production activities were conceptualized in terms of the binding regulation of the pollution they generate, toward a “transitionist” paradigm, where climate issues foster a reassessment and requalification of industrial activities and itineraries and a redistribution of resources and capital that may also lead to more productivist strategies.

Expected contributions relying on sociology, economy, political sciences, geography, anthropology, science studies may:

  1. address the emergence of new carbon-centred logics and rationales for assessing, valuing, and ranking competing activities and sectors according to their more or less carbon-intensive character (emphasising for instance the absorptive potential of forestry compared with cereal crops or vineyards; favouring the capacity of timber as energy producer compared with electricity; or reassessing the low-carbon nature of extractive and mining activities that incorporate local and sustainable production methods) 
  2. document the rise of new instruments, expert knowledge and metrics aiming at measuring and certifying carbon emission reductions or sequestration potentialities; and investigate the development of public and private organisations producing standards, norms and methods for assessing the role of various production practices in relation with their impact on carbon reservoirs and flows.
  3. unpack the new cultural understandings of ecosystems and natural entities, such as soil, forests, minerals etc. as they are reconceptualised in terms of their place in the global carbon cycle; contributions may emphasize for instance how soils are being recast as global carbon sinks and reservoirs or how tree stumps are reconceptualised from waste to new resource for low-carbon energy production activities. 
  4. analyse how carbon-centred rationales and meanings give rise to new identities and strategies among industrial actors and professionals; and document their impacts on anti-productivist social movements (such as anti-extractive movements), potentially leading to a technicisation of political debates and activism « in the name » of carbon calculations and expertise.


  • Short proposals (title and 1page abstract, via an email to the special issue’s editors): 15 March 2022
  • Editors’ decision communicated by the 15 April 2022
  • Submission of full papers ( 31 August 2022

A workshop will be convened at the end of June 2022 in order to improve the linkages and connexions between the contributions.

The short proposal and the full paper may be written in French or English. In the event of the paper being written in French, the translation of the accepted version will be at the authors’ expense. The review anticipates publishing this special issue in the end of 2023. Papers not accepted before the special issue publication, if eventually accepted, will be published in a later issue. To ensure the coherence of the special issue, it is envisaged that the special issue’s coordinators may refuse the publication of an accepted paper. If this is the case, the paper will be published in another issue of the review.

Full papers manuscripts should not exceed 70,000 signs (including references). Further instructions for submissions are available on the Review of Agricultural, food and Environmental Studies website.