Climate change is now a mainstream political issue. However, as yet there is no substantive framework for policy which offers coherence and consistency as to how national governments should cope with the long-term political challenges of climate change.
In association with the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics, this Policy Network project examines how best to develop this policy framework through a comparative political analysis of key western democracies. The project is led by Anthony Giddens, former director of the LSE, and Roger Liddle, vice-chair of Policy Network.
Our objective is distinctive: to think about the challenges of climate change in a specifically political context.
At present, public discussion of climate change tends to be partial and disparate. Loosely connected debates hinge on the evidence that climate change is occurring and estimates of its potential impact; the prospects for agreeing an international framework for an economic response to, for instance, carbon trading; futurology surrounding the potential for technological innovation that could solve the problem; and, scenario building that tends to emphasise the necessity for dramatic lifestyle changes.
But the debate is often limited in scope and is too compartmentalised. To truly come to terms with the increasingly urgent need for mitigation and adaptation requires a broad policy perspective because the impact of climate change reverberates in every corner of the 21st century state. This project aims to offer an integrated platform from which to analyse and respond to the political challenges of climate change.
Our primary focus is on public policy at the national level. Although an international agreement is a vital aspect of an effective global response to climate change, we cannot rely exclusively on international consensus as an impetus for action. No amount of discussion at an international level will be of any consequence if the countries mainly responsible for causing climate change do not make effective and radical responses to it.
So, it is at the national level in the developed countries that real progress first has to be made. And it is through decisive national leadership at this level that a global solution can eventually be induced.
Our “best practice” comparisons will concentrate on key western democracies, such as: the United Kingdom; Germany; Sweden; Spain; Poland; the United States at the federal level; and, Japan. We will also look at what role the European Union can play in encouraging national action and offering a framework for regional leadership combating the challenges of climate change.
The aim of the project is to produce something of a complementary volume of study to that of the Stern Review in the form of two publications: an authoritative monograph written by Anthony Giddens; and a comparative collection of essays from national policymakers and senior academics synthesising the conclusions of the programme with a set of policy proposals for governments.
This volume of study will address the following political challenges posed and issues raised by climate change to western democracies:
• The management of risk – The prevailing scientific consensus on the effects of climate change is periodically questioned by those who want to scale-up and those who want to scale-down the present levels of urgency and severity in its assessment. How in these circumstances can democracies construct a prudent, long term and consistent policy agenda to manage these risks, whilst also building consensus around the agenda? To what extent is this agenda shared with the pursuit of energy security?
• A return to planning? – Effective national action on climate change requires a return in some form to long-term government planning. What new forms of interventionism would be most expedient, learning from the failures of the past? How can the climate change dimension be built into every relevant aspect of public policy? How can market-orientated approaches be balanced with state-centric ones in coping with vital issues of mitigation and adaptation, such as carbon pricing, the role of regulation, energy efficiency, transport and land use, the promotion of specific technological innovation by government, and lifestyle and behavioural changes?
• Creating a political and public consensus for action – How can the democratic penchant for partisanship and short-termism, within differing democratic cultures, be replaced by long-termism and a consensus-based policy agenda? How can an ambivalent public opinion, especially at times of economic uncertainty, be convinced of the merits of long-term action on climate change? What can governments do to induce sustained support for combating climate change?
• The implications for social justice – The social and economic costs of climate change will be large. How can you ensure that the impact of policies to address climate change are perceived as equitable by key groups in society and do not penalise those who are less fortunate? What are the prospects of ensuring that western democracies can be persuaded to carry the economic and political burden of climate change instead of countries in the developing world?
Our goal is to consider the impact of these challenges and issues on western democracies in general and on specific nations in particular. In this process we will assess the national specificities of the politics of climate change: the successes, weaknesses and contradictions of existing policy; and, the links to national energy security agendas. This will allow for a wide-ranging “best practice” comparison.
Concluding conference (London, June 5th)
• The politics of climate change: from economic crisis to business revolution
• The Politics of Climate Change (Anthony Giddens, Polity 2009)
• The politics of climate policy in affluent democracies
• The EU and the management of sustainable development: the role of the Nordics
• The Politics of Climate Change: national responses to the challenge of global warming
• The politics of climate change: seeking a global solution through national action (Mutsuyoshi Nishimura)
• Policies for a Low Carbon Society: the EU, Japan, and the Society: the EU, Japan, and the US Compared (Miranda Schreurs)