Special Issue Call – Mitigation Deterrence and Carbon Removal in the Age of Net Zero

This is a call for papers that examine how the focus on net zero and carbon removal in current climate governance changes the dynamics of mitigation deterrence and climate delay (Carton et al., 2020). It invites contributions that in one way or another engage with empirical examples where (the promise of) carbon removal results in mitigation deterrence and delay.

In recent years, the climate conversation has moved towards an entirely new framing and discourse: Countries, municipalities, and various private actors have adopted the framing of ‘net zero’ as the new master narrative of global climate governance. The net zero narrative promises to balance out any remaining emissions with removals at some point in the near or medium-term future, and as of June 2022, 90% of country targets include net zero pledges[1].

In keeping with the rapid growth of the net zero conversation, a number of concerns are being raised about what such pledges actually mean, and what is or is not encapsulated in them (Fankhauser et al., 2022). A growing number of reports and analyses by scholars, NGOs and climate think tanks find that net zero pledges differ immensely in terms of their scope, transparency and implied climate ambition. Some pledges, e.g. by major oil and gas companies, amount to little more than greenwashing, while those of some other actors depict a clearer commitment to scaling up emission reductions (Day et al., 2022; Li et al., 2022; Oxfam, 2021).

A central question in the net zero debate concerns the question of climate delay. More specifically, whether or not the implied fungibility between removals and reductions (and residual emissions) presupposed by the ‘net’, and the enormous ambiguity and flexibility that such fungibility allows, is creating a new dynamic of climate delay, what scholars in recent years have called mitigation deterrence (McLaren et al., 2021). This literature has asked the question of whether the introduction of net climate targets, and the increasing focus on removals in policy and corporate discourse, create a distraction from the need to dramatically accelerate emission reductions.

The question of mitigation deterrence has lately stirred considerable academic debate. A common argument against mitigation deterrence is simply that we have to do both emissions reductions and carbon removal (Jebari et al., 2021), while others claim that this argument over-estimates how rationally managed society is and underestimates the influence of societal inertia and organised interests (Markusson et al., 2018). So far, much of the mitigation deterrence debate has taken place at a fairly abstract, theoretical, conceptual level. Few studies, however, have engaged with the empirical dimensions of mitigation deterrence in relation to carbon removal and net zero in practice.

Carbon removal is so far mostly a future promise, an imaginary of what climate governance might look like multiple decades from now. However, now we are seeing the development of actual carbon removal projects, carbon removal start-ups are popping up everywhere, and policy on removal is being developed in for example the European Union and the US (Schenuit et al., 2021). Significant amounts of funding are pouring into this field, including from wealthy philanthropists and large tech companies[2]. This creates an environment where it now becomes possible, much more than before, to engage with the empirics of mitigation deterrence for particular cases, across different geographies and temporalities. Doing so would enable the debate to move forward and ground some of the theoretical claims that have been made in the literature, and illustrate the need for policy makers to engage with the risks involved.

This special issue seeks to examine how carbon removal and the focus on net zero in current climate governance influence the dynamics of mitigation deterrence and climate delay. We invite papers that engage with this emerging empirical domain, focusing, but not exclusively, on:

  • How national and corporate net-zero pledges and carbon removal plans are translated into concrete policies and plans, including considerations of whether these remain future imaginaries or translate into concrete projects and actions on the ground;
  • How some places and ways of life – and associated emissions – are reimagined and/or transformed, while others are not because of carbon removal projects (Shue, 2019, Hickel 2022);
  • How carbon removal pilots and start-ups are funded and what networks of support they build on;
  • How different public or private actors mobilize carbon removal promises and narratives to legitimize existing carbon-intensive practices (Megura and Gunderson, 2022);
  • How graphs, numbers and science more broadly are mobilised by public entities, corporate players and other actors to promote carbon removal projects, and, potentially, distract attention from emissions reductions;
  • How certain continued activities and associated emissions are justified discursively as necessary, desirable and not possible to abate, and thereby conjure a need for (future) carbon removal;
  • How different actors call for, question or resist specificemissions reductions and carbon removal efforts and how they are discursively positioned to support specific transformations towards net zero/net negative (Gough and Mander, 2019);
  • How mitigation deterrence risks are perceived, and what attempts to counteract mitigation deterrence claims are undertaken in policy and/or projects;
  • How mitigation deterrence risks can be minimised or pre-empted;


Our timeline for the special issue looks like this:

  • August 1st – Send out the call
  • Mid-Sept – Abstract submission
  • Oct 1st – Confirmation to authors
  • Xmas – Draft papers submitted to special issue editors
  • Jan 31st – Feedback to authors
  • March 1st – Paper submission to journal
  • End of 2023 – Special issue published.

We are in conversation with journals about a suitable home for the special issue. Potential journals that we have thought to contact include: Global Sustainability, World Development, Environment and Planning E and Geoforum.

Please submit abstracts to us at n.markusson@lancaster.ac.uk by Thursday September 15th.

Best wishes,

Nils Markusson, Holly Buck, Wim Carton, Kate Dooley, Jens Friis Lund, Inge-Merete Hougaard and Camila Moreno.


Carton, W., A. Asiyanbi, S. Beck, et al. (2020) ‘Negative emissions and the long history of carbon removal’. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change.

Day, T., S. Mooldijk, S. Smit, et al. (2022) ‘Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor 2022’.

Fankhauser, S., S.M. Smith, M. Allen, et al. (2022) ‘The meaning of net zero and how to get it right’. Nature Climate Change.

Gough, C. and S. Mander (2019) ‘Beyond Social Acceptability: Applying Lessons from CCS Social Science to Support Deployment of BECCS’. Current Sustainable/Renewable Energy Reports 6(4). Current Sustainable/Renewable Energy Reports: 116–23.

Hickel, J., & Slameršak, A. (2022). Existing climate mitigation scenarios perpetuate colonial inequalities. Lancet Planet Health, 6, e628-31.

Jebari, J., O.O. Táíwò, T.M. Andrews, et al. (2021) ‘From moral hazard to risk-response feedback’. Climate Risk Management 33.

Li, M., G. Trencher and J. Asuka (2022) ‘The clean energy claims of BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell: A mismatch between discourse, actions and investments’. PLoS ONE 17(2 February).

Markusson, N., D. McLaren and D. Tyfield (2018) ‘Towards a cultural political economy of mitigation deterrence by negative emissions technologies (NETs)’. Global Sustainability.

McLaren, D., Willis, R., Szerszynski, B., et al. (2021) ‘Attractions of delay: Using deliberative engagement to investigate the political and strategic impacts of greenhouse gas removal technologies’. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.

Megura, M. and R. Gunderson (2022) ‘Better poison is the cure? Critically examining fossil fuel companies, climate change framing, and corporate sustainability reports’. Energy Research and Social Science 85.

Oxfam (2021) ‘Tightening the net: Net zero climate targets – implications for land and food equity’.

Schenuit, F., R. Colvin, M. Fridahl, et al. (2021) ‘Carbon Dioxide Removal Policy in the Making: Assessing Developments in 9 OECD Cases’. Frontiers in Climate 3(March): 1–22.

Shue, H. (2019) ‘Subsistence protection and mitigation ambition: Necessities, economic and climatic’. British Journal of Politics and International Relations.

[1] https://zerotracker.net/

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2022/04/big-tech-investment-carbon-removal/629545/

PhD Course ‘Mitigating Climate Change: The Politics of Net Zero and Carbon Removal’

PhD Course (7.5 ECTS credits) ‘Mitigating Climate Change: The Politics of Net Zero and Carbon Removal’, 13-17 June, 2022, Copenhagen.

In this 5-day intensive course, students will be acquainted with the promises and pitfalls of ‘net zero’ mitigation
pathways and the technologies that are supposed to help bring these about. The course gives students a critical
overview of the current net zero conversation against the background of the history of climate politics, and goes into
some of the main tendencies, tensions and opportunities that characterize net zero pathways. It mainly draws on
conceptual tools in the fields of political economy, political ecology and science and technology studies.

Lecturers will be Holly Jean Buck, University of Buffalo, US; Wim Carton, Lund University, Sweden; Inge-Merete Hougaard, Lund University, Sweden; Jens Friis Lund, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Nils Markusson, Lancaster University, UK; and Camila Moreno, Humboldt University, Germany.

Course participants should be enrolled in a PhD program and can be at any stage of their studies. Participants will need to submit a draft essay prior to the start of the course. This essay will be discussed with colleagues and lecturers during the course.

A €100 course fee will be charged. Participants are expected to pay for their own travel and accommodation. Participation will be capped at about 20 students.

To apply send a 1-page CV & 1-page motivation letter, to: jens@ifro.ku.dk and wim.carton@lucsus.lu.se, DEADLINE 15 January 2022. The letter should describe the PhD project and specify its relation to the theme of the course.

CfP American Association of Geographers (AAG) 2021 Annual Conference

CfP American Association of Geographers (AAG) 2021 Annual Conference 


Roads, bridges, dams and ports: what does the turn to infrastructure (both empirical and theoretical) mean for Latin American environmental geographies? 

Dr Jessica Hope & Prof Murat Arsel 

Latin America’s contested environmental geographies remain globally significant, in particular for the negotiation and analysis of predatory extractive frontiers and for fertile decolonising agendas that include claims for territory, plurality and ontological multiplicity. Yet, commitments to new infrastructure both connect and complicate extractive and decolonising agendas, with implications for Latin American political ecologies and their analysis. Plans for new infrastructure include new highways, waterways, railways, ports, dams, and power stations, including in the Amazon basin (Bebbington et al 2020). These plans extend a wider turn to infrastructure-led development (Dodson 2017), support the region’s extractive imperative (Arsel et al 2019) and are entangled with global agendas for sustainable development (Hope 2020).  

Within social science, an infrastructural turn has brought changes to contemporary conceptualisations of infrastructure that go beyond physical materiality to examine infrastructures as a manifestation of social and technological processes (Lemanski 2019:3; Larkin 2013; Von Schnitzler 2008), revealing how infrastructure is implicated in citizenship (Lemanski 2020), post-colonial politics (Cowen 2019; Enns & Bersaglio 2020), authoritarian developmentalism (Arsel et al. forthcoming), and political ecology (Anand 2017; Bebbington 2020; Hope forthcoming). In this session, we invite papers that examine what this turn to infrastructure means, both empirically and theoretically, for our understanding and analysis of Latin American environmental geographies.  

Authors are invited to address some of the following questions: 

  • What do new infrastructures mean for Latin American environmental geographies? 
  • How will they connect, complicate and challenge divergent socio-environmental projects in the region? 
  • How do geographical treatments of infrastructure extend contemporary work on Latin American environmental geographies, for example on sustainable development, extractivism or plurality? 
  • How do infrastructural projects and their contestation shape state-society relationships? 
  • How do the contestation of infrastructural projects shape political subjectivities and in which ways do these subjectivities differ in rural and urban spheres? 
  • To what extent Latin American infrastructural debates differ from similar dynamics observed elsewhere in the world, including in the Global North? 

Please send a 250 word abstract and brief bio to Jessica Hope (jch31@st-andrews.ac.uk) by Monday October 26th 2020, so accepted abstracts can be submitted directly to the AAG by Oct 28th.  

Anand, N., (2017). Hydraulic city: Water and the infrastructures of citizenship in Mumbai. Duke University Press. 

Arsel, M., Adaman, F., Saad Filho, A. (forthcoming) Authoritarian developmentalism: Latest stage of 

neoliberalism? Geoforum. 

Arsel, M., Pellegrini, L., & Mena, C. (2019). Maria’s paradox: oil extraction and the misery of missing 

development alternatives in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In Shaffer, P., Kanbur, R., & Sandbrook, R. (Eds). (2019). Immiserizing Growth: When Growth Fails the Poor. Oxford University Press, pp. 203-225. 

Bebbington, A., Chicchon, A., Cuba, N., Greenspan, E., Hecht, S., Bebbington, D.H., Kandel, S., Osborne, T., Ray, R., Rogan, J. and Sauls, L., (2020). Opinion: Priorities for governing large-scale infrastructure in the tropics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences117(36), pp.21829-21833. 

Cowen, D., 2019. Following the infrastructures of empire: Notes on cities, settler colonialism, and method. Urban Geography, pp.1-18. 

Dodson, J., (2017). The global infrastructure turn and urban practice. Urban Policy and Research35(1), pp.87-92. 

Enns, C. and Bersaglio, B., (2020). On the Coloniality of “New” Mega‐Infrastructure Projects in East Africa. Antipode52(1), pp.101-123. 

Hope, J., (2020). The anti‐politics of sustainable development: Environmental critique from assemblage thinking in Bolivia. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

Hope, J. (forthcoming) Driving Development in the Amazon: extending infrastructural citizenship with political ecology in BoliviaEnvironment and Planning E 

Lemanski, C., (2019). Infrastructural citizenship: The everyday citizenships of adapting and/or destroying public infrastructure in Cape Town, South Africa. Transactions of the Institute of British geographers

Lemanski, C., (2020). Infrastructural citizenship:(de) constructing state–society relations. International Development Planning Review42(2). 

POLLEN20 virtual 22nd – 25th of September 2020

Following the announcement that the Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network, Contested Natures: Power, Politics, Prefiguration, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are happy to announce that POLLEN20 will be moving, in a restructured form, to a virtual platform, and the new dates will be the 22nd – 25th of September 2020. Please bear with us as we update the information on the conference site. The organizing group will be getting in touch with session organizers about changes soon. More soon on, https://pollen2020.wordpress.com/

Postdoc Research Associate Position in the Social Dimensions of Gene Editing in Food and Agriculture

A two-year postdoctoral position is available in the department of sociology at Iowa State University (ISU). The postdoc will work with an interdisciplinary team examining the social dimensions and governance of gene editing in food and agriculture. The project is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Social Implications of Emerging Technologies (see https://geneeditedfoods.soc.iastate.edu/). The postdoctoral research associate will be expected to analyze both qualitative interview/focus group data and quantitative survey data, help lead a deliberative stakeholder workshop, conduct literature reviews and employ sociological theories related to agrifood biotechnologies and governance, contribute to peer-reviewed publications and presentations at professional meetings. The full position announcement with due dates is attached.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Dr. Theresa Selfa Professor and Associate Chair, Dept. of Environmental Studies & Graduate Program in Environmental Science, SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry Syracuse, NY 13210 tselfa@esf.edu https://www.esf.edu/faculty/selfa/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Associate Editor, Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems Associate Editor, Rural Sociology