Grant for research on the transition to a fossil-free future



The research programme FAIRTRANS (Fair Transformations to a Fossil-Free Future) has been awarded a grant totalling SEK 40 million from Mistra and the Swedish research council Formas. The goal is to promote research that involves civil society and that facilitates and accelerates a fair climate transition. One of the researchers in the programme is Mikael Karlsson, a newly appointed associate professor in climate leadership at Uppsala University.

Mikael Karlsson, associate professor of
environmental sciences, Uppsala University

Mikael Karlsson, associate professor of environmental sciences, came to Uppsala University a couple of weeks ago, when he began a new position as associate professor in climate leadership at the Department of Earth Sciences. Today the gratifying news arrived that the programme proposal FAIRTRANS, which Mikael Karlsson has been involved in designing, has been approved by the Mistra research funding foundation. A total of SEK 40 million will be invested in research for the transition to a fair, fossil-free future.

Scientific knowledge crucial

“We need to solve the climate crisis, but it needs to be done in a fair way,” says Mikael Karlsson. “Climate change challenges all our social systems and all of us in Sweden and the world. It is very complex. Scientific knowledge is crucial for the necessary transition, but it needs to be designed and implemented in dialogue with parties from all sides. The FAIRTRANS programme revolves around allowing research to meet the world outside academia and, together, we’ll turn conflicts into synergies. This will allow those of us from universities to better lead the way in climate issues.”

Mikael Karlsson, who is part of the management of the research programme, is the research director of the largest sub-programme, Co-creating Fair Transformations to a Fossil-Free Future, and takes part in other programmes. A doctoral student will be appointed, and researchers from several other universities will participate along with several other stakeholders.

Investigate motivating forces and obstacles

“A main task will be investigating motivating forces and obstacles in the transition to a fossil-free, fair society,” says Karlsson. “What political decisions are needed to allow progress more quickly? What do trade unions, companies and environmental organisations think? How can we create broad-based common learning? The answers to these questions will lead to a broad manifesto when the programme ends in four years.”

Another sub-project concerns how different sectors of society can be restructured so that they are compatible with a national emissions budget. Both fossil emissions and carbon flows in forests and agriculture will be studied. In areas with conflicting goals, such as bioenergy, efforts are being made to create greater consensus.

“The debate about bioenergy is unfortunate,” says Karlsson. “Different researchers largely are in agreement, but the media and online sources often focus on disagreement. Some completely ignore scientific knowledge. We want to investigate why this is the case and work to identify common approaches to arrive at a broader, scientifically well-established basis for decision-making.”

Received a positive response

The programme involves several interest groups at the national level and in workplaces throughout Sweden. Climate representatives will be trained, and there will be consultations with the general public.

“I expect that we will be very visible, both in the public debate and in conversations with individuals and interested organisations. At the same time, we will publish world-class research. That is fundamental. So far we have received a very positive response. It seems as if the world and Sweden are increasingly on the right track on the climate issue. That clearly is hopeful,” concludes Mikael Karlsson.

Malin Eivergård


Stockholm University will be the programme host. Other involved stakeholders include the University of Gävle; KTH Royal Institute of Technology; Uppsala University; IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute; Lund University; the Global Challenge think tank; the central trade organisations LO, TCO and Saco and their unions; Fossil Free Sweden; the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, KF (the Swedish Co-operative Union); the Hyresgästföreningen tenants association; AI Sweden; the Swedish Federation of Business Owners; the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise; Swedish Investors for Sustainable Development (SISD); and other parties.

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