At last climate change is moving to the top of the political agenda worldwide. I joined Extinction Rebellion in October 2018, frustrated at the lack of action by governments generally in the face of accelerating increase in global greenhouse gas emissions, and in particular by the UK government’s decision to go ahead with the third runway at Heathrow Airport, which can only contribute further to this great acceleration. Much has changed in the last year but governments have largely continued with ‘business as usual’, with all that that means in terms of supporting the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, the intensification of agriculture, the destruction of rain forests, the pollution of the world’s oceans, and so on. Continue reading →
At first glance, UK and Swiss fracking policy and policymaking seem very different. The UK government centralises policymaking and can impose policy from the top down, while in Switzerland many veto points exist in its so-called ‘consensus’ democracy. The UK government is pro-fracking, while Swiss authorities have come out against it. So it is striking that there seems to be very little difference in their policy outcomes. Why, if the UK government has stated its position as ‘all out for shale’, has there been limited commercial development and very little challenge to policymaking done at regional rather than national level? Why is policy and policymaking surprisingly similar in the UK and Switzerland? Continue reading →
In 2013, Britain’s electricity markets were reorganized through Electricity Market Reform (EMR). The programme of EMR sought to prioritise the public goods of energy security and climate change mitigation. This marked a shift away from free markets towards a greater role for state direction in the energy market.
In our Policy & Politics article entitled Electricity Market Reform: so what’s new? we use grid group cultural theory to explain changes in the regulatory regime under EMR. Cultural theory claims that regulatory actions result from more cultural biases: individualism, hierarchy, egalitarianism and fatalism. Individualists privilege free markets, hierarchs privilege expert and government authority, egalitarians emphasise equity, the environment and community lead decision-making and fatalists are resigned to carious fate. We claim that EMR represents an incomplete shift from ‘individualist’ to ‘hierarchical’ approaches to the regulation of the British energy market.
We argue that conflicts between the different frames explain the institutional design of EMR. Whilst the egalitarian bias is implicit in the drive for decarbonisation and support for renewables, a hierarchical bias and panic Continue reading →
Brisbane, Queensland’s capital city, did not escape this natural disaster. By the second week of January, residents and business owners in low-lying suburbs were caught off-guard as a flood moved rapidly down the Brisbane River. They hastily evacuated what possessions they could, then watched with a sense of disbelief as muddy waters rose through their streets and two days later receded. When they could return to their water and mud sodden homes, and began to pick through the chaos of destroyed belongings, the true extent of the emergency became real for many.
In the days that followed, flood waters were replaced by floods of citizen-volunteers who gathered spontaneously in affected Continue reading →
In his article The Politics of Climate Change as in the the two editions of his The Politics of Climate Change, Anthony Giddens identifies what he and others now refer to as ‘Giddens’s paradox’ – that although climate scientists are increasingly certain about the nature and intensity of anthropogenic climate change the general public is becoming less concerned that it is a crucial issue calling for immediate comprehensive, global action. He identifies four reasons for this: the well-funded campaigns against policy proposals to reduce carbon emissions, often involving disinformation, by those who would lose financially, notably companies involved in fossil fuels; the difficulties lay people have in appreciating climate science and the concepts of risk and uncertainty; the ‘free rider’ issue – why should Britain (or any country for that matter) which is only a small contributor to the global emissions total take a lead in tackling the issue; and the primacy that many countries, especially those in the developing world, place on economic development.
There is thus a global paralysis regarding climate change policy that needs to be broken. Giddens suggests that a new policy paradigm is now urgently needed, based Continue reading →