Looting the Ivory Tower: On the UK Climate Change Act 2008…

Lorenzoni, I. and Benson, D. 2014. Radical institutional change in environmental governance: Explaining the origins of the UK Climate Change Act 2008 through discursive and streams perspectives.  Global Environmental Change, Vol. 29 pp.210-21.

lootingivorytowerThe TL;DR. You can look at the political and social forces that led to the UK Climate Act 2008 in various valid ways.  Implementation of policy is another matter, however

Their argument in a tweet: (140 characters). UK made tough legal climate targets in 2008, thanks to social movements, idea-mongers and politicians.

Should activists pay attention? (If yes, why)
Yes.  This was our “big success”, and it’s important to know where it came from.  Social movement organisations (Friends of the Earth, WWF) did some good public and private lobbying, and there was even political competition between Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives, that led to tougher than expected targets.

Of course, laws and targets are one thing, implementation is another…

What’s the issue?
The passage of a law that mandates 80% cuts of all greenhouse gases by 2050.

What do they have to say?
Two different models of analysing political change – John Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Model, and Discursive Institutionalism (Vivien Schmidt et al) are both handy in thinking through who did what when and to what effect.  Both spotlight different factors and actors that helped push events along. The paper does NOT deal with the sorry aftermath since 2010.  Hopefully they will do this in another paper?

How convincing is their methodology?
Good.  They read a lot, then did interviews with people in the know, then triangulated

What else would a critic say?
“Why not use Advocacy Coalition Frameworks, or Punctuated Equilibrium?”  [or at least justify why not using them.  There are some minor factual errors/typos etc.  But on the whole?  ‘Good job!!’

What else could they have said?
The implementation question!!

What are the implications for (Manchester-based) activism?
Makes you realise that there was a set of special pressures in 2007-2009, and that the soufflé won’t be re-heated.  We’re toast (to mix metaphors)
What papers/books to do these people refer to that looks (or is) interesting?

Benson, D., Lorenzoni, I., 2014. Examining the scope for national lesson-drawing on climate governance. Polit. Q. 85 (2), 202–211, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467- 923X.12080.

Brunner, S., 2008. Understanding policy change: multiple streams and emissions trading in Germany. GEC 18, 501–507.

Davies, P.H.J., 2001. Spies as informants: triangulation and the interpretation of Elite interview data in the study of the intelligence and security services. Politics 21 (1), 73–80.

Farley, J., Baker, D., Batker, D., Koliba, C., Matteson, R., Mills, R., Pittman, J., 2007. Opening the SM for ecological economics: Katrina as a focusing event. Ecol. Econ. 63, 344–354.

Nerlich, B., 2012. ‘Low carbon’ metals, markets and metaphors: the creation of economic expectations about climate change mitigation. Clim. Change 110, 31–51. Pidgeon, N.F., 2012. Public understanding of, and attitudes to, climate change: UK and international perspectives and policy. Clim. Policy 12, S85–S106.

Rayner, T., Jordan, A., 2010. The United Kingdom: a paradoxical leader. In: Wurzel, R.K.W., Connelly, J. (Eds.), The European Union as a Leader in International Climate Change Politics. Routledge, London, pp. 95–111.

Schmidt, V.A., 2010. Taking ideas and discourse seriously: explaining change through discursive institutionalism as the fourth ‘new institutionalism’. Eur. Polit. Sci. Rev. 2 (1), 1–25.


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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