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Joanna Boehnert, Ben Reason

Project Framing and Process 

Transition Templates: Pathways to net zero+ is a three-year AHRC-funded research project using systems-level forms of design to envision pathways for dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in five sectors of the UK economy. The United Kingdom has committed to reaching “net zero” emissions by 2050 with the legal frameworks of the Climate Change Act (2008) and Environment Act (2021). Net zero is a target based on historical admissions, and it does not mean “zero” or no greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—but a return to a 1990 baseline level. While decarbonising the UK economy to the 1990 level is a major logistical challenge, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stresses that GHG emissions must not only be ended to keep global average temperature rise below 1.5°C, but net reductions are necessary, i.e., GHGs also needs to be taken out of the atmosphere. Additionally, the 2050 target is too late to avoid severe climate impacts, so decarbonisation needs to happen even more quickly. None of these decarbonisation agendas will be accomplished without new infrastructure along with dramatic changes in ways of living and ways of doing business across sectors.

In response to these challenges, this research project will conduct transdisciplinary expert consultation and participatory system mapping processes to develop pathways for decarbonisation in different sectors of the UK economy, starting with home energy ecosystems. This work-in-progress presentation covers the first six months of this systemic service design research for socio-technological transitions.

KEYWORDS: systemic design, net zero, ecological transitions, service design, speculative design, transition design, participatory mapping

RSD TOPIC(S): Mapping & Modelling, Socioecological Design, Sociotechnical Systems


Livework project page:

UKRI funding:


  1. Climate Change Committee (2020) CCC Insights Briefing 1 The UK Climate Change Act. October 2020.
  2. Design Council (2021). Beyond Net Zero: A Systemic Design Approach.
    Gaziulusoy, I & Ryan, C (2017, October 18-20) Imagining Transitions: Designing a visioning process for systemic urban sustainability futures. RSD6, Oslo, Norway.
  3. HM Government (2023) Powering Up Britain – The Net Zero Growth Plan. Controller of His Majesty’s Stationery Office.
  4. Irwin, T, Tonkinwise, C, & Kossoff, G (2013, October 12) Transition Design: Re-conceptualizing Whole Lifestyles. Head, Heart, Hand. AIGA Design Conference, Minneapolis.
  5. IPCC (2023) Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, H. Lee and J. Romero (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, pp. 1-34.
  6. Jones, P. (2017) The Systemic Turn: Leverage for World Changing [editorial]. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation 3 (3), 157–163.
    Milne, S, Chambers, K, Elks, S, Hussain, S, & McKinnon, S (2019) Living Carbon Free: Exploring what a net-zero target means for households. Energy Systems Catapult.
  7. Sevaldson, B, & Jones, P (2019) An Interdiscipline Emerges: Pathways to Systemic Design. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation 5 (2), 75–84.


Joanna Boehnert, Senior Lecturer in Design and AHRC Innovation Scholar, Bath Spa University, |

Ben Reason, Founding Partner, Livework,


This research is supported by the AHRC grant number AH/X005186/1.




Citation Data

Author(s): Joanna Boehnert and Ben Reason
Year: 2023
Title: Transition Templates: Pathways to net zero+
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
Host: Georgetown University
Location: ONLINE
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 10 July 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404