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 A critique of climate change mitigation policy→
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.
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.
We were delighted to welcome Lord Anthony Giddens on 17th March 2015 to speak on The Politics of Climate Change. The event was fully booked some weeks beforehand and the Great Hall was packed on the night. Lord Giddens did not disappoint in presenting a clear and pressing case for the need for urgent action to address the problem of climate change.
Below is a film of the whole lecture in case you want to listen again, or if you were not able to get a ticket. We are most grateful to Lord Giddens for allowing us to use it.
Lord Anthony Giddens presented the Policy and Politics Annual Lecture, in Bristol, on Tuesday 17th March. The theme of the lecture was to consider what recent progress has been made on climate change and what stops us doing more. Lord Giddens concluded his lecture with a proposal for the need for a new paradigm to provide the change needed to generate the radical solutions that are now necessary.
Lord Anthony Giddens first wrote “The Politics of Climate Change” in 2007/08, a time of optimism and hope, when change to reduce carbon emissions seemed top of the agenda both nationally and globally. It was a time of opportunity, seized by politicians like Al Gore who published his book and produced the film “An Inconvenient Truth” to great acclaim. It was also the time of the biggest United Nations meeting on climate change in Copenhagen where over 100 nations met to discuss measures to address the problems of climate change and reducing carbon emissions.
Lord Giddens moved us through this period of optimism to one of dashed hopes and increasing fears following the lack of agreement in Copenhagen. He talked about the difficulties of measuring climate change and the range of indicators needed to assess impacts. He argued that despite the advancements in science and knowledge, there are still many sceptics who refuse to acknowledge the very real changes we are experiencing. Indeed, one of the problems with climate change, he explained, lies in its irreversible nature, the fact that once greenhouse gases are in Continue reading Time for a radical new paradigm to help us address climate change→
by Christine Cheyne, Member of the Policy & Politics Editorial Advisory Board and Associate Professor, School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University, New Zealand
I’m always drawn to ‘edge-y’ articles – or writing that decenters, provokes and challenges – and this issue does not disappoint. The article by Andrew Ryder, Gypsies and Travellers a Big or Divided Society, offers a fresh perspective on the localism debate that has characterised recent UK public policy. Although much less a feature of other jurisdictions, the localism debate in the UK that has some resonance for readers in many parts of the world as it highlights long-standing tensions in democratic theory between statism and localism. These tensions, I would argue, have been exploited by higher levels of government in many parts of the world (including my own country, New Zealand) since the 2008 global financial crisis. Ryder shows with his case study of the treatment of Gypsy and Traveller site provision under the new localist planning system that even though overt state intervention is resiled from, localism can be a new form of control of local politics and can exacerbate inequalities and social exclusion which might otherwise be mitigated through central planning guidance or redistributive policies. Ryder asserts Habermas’s deliberative democratic ideal in making a case for a ‘new centralism’, an inclusive governance that recognizes a role for a central state to protect vulnerable minorities, but which also insists on participatory and deliberative democratic processes so that localism doesn’t become (or increase) NIMBY-ism.
Provoking some further intellectual discomfort, climate change is a profoundly complex public policy challenge to which meaningful responses continue to be lacking. While the focus is often, appropriately, on younger age groups and the implications for their lifestyles, Wistow et al. draw attention to the realities for a particularly vulnerable group in our society, the dependent elderly, who are less visibly but, arguably, more seriously disadvantaged by extreme weather events associated with climate change that can damage and destroy built infrastructure. With an ageing population dependent on electricity supply, not just for domestic heating (or cooling), but also for provision of medical care such as hoists, oxygen supplies and dialysis, contemplating the adverse consequences of disruption from extreme weather events is sobering. Wistow et al. provide detailed data from interviews and focus groups about the risks and options to address them. Even if 50 is the new 30, readers will be challenged to think about the implications for the ageing/dependent groups – if not ourselves then our older family members from whom we are often living at some distance. Localism has much yet to deliver both for our most vulnerable groups but for all of us experiencing climate change. Getting the balance between central and local leadership and community participation is critical.
You can read the whole January 2015 issue of Policy & Politics here.
UPDATE – THIS EVENT IS NOW FULLY BOOKED. You can still #askgiddens a question during the lecture via our live twitter feed @policy_politics
We are delighted to welcome Lord Anthony Giddens to speak on the Politics of Climate Change at our Annual Lecture on the evening of 17th March 2015 in the Great Hall of the Wills Building at the University of Bristol. The lecture is free of charge to attend though numbers are limited so tickets must be booked in advance at bit.ly/1y0vM2Q