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Governing low carbon transitions Adrian Smith SPRU – Science & Technology Policy Research University of Sussex British Sociological Association Climate Change Study Group 17th January 20011, British Library, London
Overview The challenge for low carbon governance is increasingly framed as a transition from high-carbon to low-carbon systems The simplification of complex transformations: illustrate with case of a multi-level perspective on transitions Social science in low carbon governance: objectifying and reflexive tensions?
Some themes in mainstream low carbon narratives Deep emissions cuts imply wide-scale transformations across many sectors Green technological innovations and individual behaviour change in market settings emphasised Systems perspectives are sometimes espoused: governing a transition from high-carbon to low-carbon systems
Systems approaches in governance context ‘ system’
FRAMINGS Systems framings ‘ system’ context 1.
FRAMINGS Systems framings ‘ system’ 1. context 2.
FRAMINGS Systems framings ‘ system’ 1. 2. context 3.
FRAMINGS Systems framings ‘ system’ 1. 2. 3. context 4.
Governance for low carbon systems Scientific knowledge Infrastructure management Business models / profitability Policy institutions Environmental impacts Willing practitioners / norms Maintenance Social embedding Skilled workforce Components Technological artefacts Create processes whereby people can align   socio-technical elements into working configurations and create powerful new systems
Governance for low carbon systems Create processes whereby people can create powerful low carbon systems scientific disciplines infrastructure requirements Product/service markets carbon markets system management NGO  partnerships environmental impacts niche markets maintenance capacities public acceptability skilled workforce reliable components supply chain training / accreditation planning process social movements trade associations informed finance specialist services Insurance provision affected communities wider culture sensitive regulation sponsoring public bodies consumer behaviour
Norms and routines of engineers and developers Business models and markets Economies of scale and networks Infrastructures for connecting components Institutions for coordinating and reproducing systems Consumer habits and social practices Political power and access to decision-making Governance for low carbon systems needs also to unsettle governance by incumbent ‘regimes’  –  create space for experimentation Incumbent systems ‘govern’ through co-evolving path-dependencies: Governance by incumbent systems
Multi-level heuristic on system transitions Source: Geels (2002)
Initial  consequences arising from this frame Dichotomous view of transition : Institutionalised incumbent vs. Emergent new; a move from A to B (cf. plurality of socio-technical developments across places) Transition requires niches that build momentum in response to regime and landscape processes and opportunities Actors reproduce processes in each level, but are they assume to be subordinate to transition requirements? Landscape is background driver (cf. something to be transformed)
Framing transition governance Source: Geels (2002) Pressure on regime  to become sustainable Empowering environmental  awareness and values Pathways to visions Pathways to visions Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Learning / process Politics / substance
Framing transition governance Source: Geels (2002) Pressure on regime  to become sustainable Empowering environmental  awareness and values Whose visions count? Pathways to visions Pathways to visions Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Learning / process Politics / substance
Framing transition governance Source: Geels (2002) Pressure on regime  to become sustainable Empowering environmental  awareness and values Whose visions count? Pathways to visions Pathways to visions Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Learning / process Politics / substance
Framing transition governance Source: Geels (2002) Pressure on regime  to become sustainable Empowering environmental  awareness and values Whose lessons should  drive future adaptations? Whose visions count? How to redistribute commitments in socially just ways? How to destabilise the regime? Where does all this take place? Which niches to support; whose criteria? Pathways to visions Pathways to visions Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Learning / process Politics / substance
Two constructive responses to framing issues: 1. Add further patches to a framework 2. Switch to other framings, compare and experiment Space for experimentation in governance? An objectifying requirement – framework that settles issues in the context of existing policy institutions A reflexive expectation - diverse frameworks that stimulate plural approaches Scope for experimenting with framings?
System transitions perspectives in low carbon governance discourse The MLP illustrates framing issues critical for governance Objectification and reflexivity in governance Plural framings contributing to social experimentation in governance and climate change Summarising
The allure and challenges of a multi-level transitions framing Smith, Vo β  and Grin (2010)  Research Policy  39, 4 Smith, Stirling and Berkhout (2005)  Research Policy  34, 10 The implementation of a transitions narrative into policy Smith and Kern (2009)  Environmental Politics  18, 1 Vo β , Smith and Grin (2009)  Policy Studies  42, 4 Objectification and reflexivity in systems framings  Smith and Stirling (2007)  Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning  9, 3-4 Smith and Stirling (2010)  Ecology & Society  15, 1 Thank you! And for more details ...
Commitment and appraisal in governance Governance Socio-technical system Open-up or Broad Outputs: Close-down Social commitments Ontological: material & discursive reproduction of the system Social appraisal Epistemic: understanding the system & options for change Inputs: Narrow or Diverse Interventions: Optimal
An objectifying social science: governance on the ‘outside’ Commitments Appraisal 1. Governance predicated upon a socially recognised, yet inchoate, sustainability problem Socio-technical object 4. Unitary set of interventions reconfigure the socio-technical  object according to specific commitments privileged in appraisal 3. Appraisal aggregates perspectives and closes down around single  socio-technical object 2. Different actors prioritise different inputs to appraisal
A reflexive social science: governance on the ‘inside’ Commitments Appraisal 3. Reflexive opening-up of appraisal under alternative framings 4. Closure achieved through wider political discourse about  commitments & a diverse portfolio of interventions are made 2. Reflexive acknowledgement of multiple framings of the socio- technical practices 1. Governance predicated upon a socially recognised, yet inchoate, sustainability problem Framing # n … Framing # 2 ‘ System’ seen by framing # 1
Contrasting governance strategies GOVERNANCE PERSPECTIVE GOVERNANCE FUNCTION ‘ Governance on the Outside ’ external intervention by governance subject  in socio-technical object ‘ Governance on the Inside ’ internal co-constituting of governance and  socio-technical subjects Appraisal Broadening-out the inputs to appraisal / extended reflection Scoping a particular sustainability problem / goal Aggregating ‘relevant’ actor perspectives Sustainability indicators treated as metrics Drive to objectify the socio-technical system Informing commitment formation Analysis and deliberation over ‘the best option(s)’ 1st order learning: effectiveness of appraisal/intervention Opening-up the outputs of appraisal / pluralistic reflexivity Accepting contested nature of sustainability Exploring different actor framings Indicators treated as heuristics System ambiguity accepted  Empowering deliberation over commitments Incommensurable perspectives, conditional and situated options 2nd order learning: consequences of different framings Clear distinction between appraisal and commitment in governance stages. Reflexive interaction between appraisal and commitment processes in governance. Commitment Appraisal determines commitment formation Managing governance interventions Legitimacy derives from objectivity or authority of appraisal Concentration and uniformity of commitment Aversion to failure Unilinear, unidimensional and discrete interventions Episodic and isolated commitment making Interventions are functionalist   Appraisal conditionally informs commitment formation Closure through wider governance discourse Legitimacy is negotiated through governance Ensuring strategic diversity, resilience and robustness Irony and social learning Multilinear, multidimensional and flexible repertoires Constantly renegotiated and pervasive Interventions are power laden   Attitude to governance Largely instrumental managerial function Fundamentally engaged political process
Further information Policy Science Research Policy Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning
The scale of the challenge: UK illustration 2006 emissions International aviation  & shipping* UK non-CO 2  GHGs Other CO 2 Industry (heat &  industrial processes) Residential &  Commercial heat Domestic transport Electricity Generation * bunker fuels basis 2050 objective  159 Mt CO 2 e 695 Mt CO 2 e 77% cut  (= 80% vs. 1990)
UK Low Carbon Transition Plan

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Governing Low Carbon Transitions by Adrian Smith, SPRU – Science & Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex

  • 1. Governing low carbon transitions Adrian Smith SPRU – Science & Technology Policy Research University of Sussex British Sociological Association Climate Change Study Group 17th January 20011, British Library, London
  • 2. Overview The challenge for low carbon governance is increasingly framed as a transition from high-carbon to low-carbon systems The simplification of complex transformations: illustrate with case of a multi-level perspective on transitions Social science in low carbon governance: objectifying and reflexive tensions?
  • 3. Some themes in mainstream low carbon narratives Deep emissions cuts imply wide-scale transformations across many sectors Green technological innovations and individual behaviour change in market settings emphasised Systems perspectives are sometimes espoused: governing a transition from high-carbon to low-carbon systems
  • 4. Systems approaches in governance context ‘ system’
  • 5. FRAMINGS Systems framings ‘ system’ context 1.
  • 6. FRAMINGS Systems framings ‘ system’ 1. context 2.
  • 7. FRAMINGS Systems framings ‘ system’ 1. 2. context 3.
  • 8. FRAMINGS Systems framings ‘ system’ 1. 2. 3. context 4.
  • 9. Governance for low carbon systems Scientific knowledge Infrastructure management Business models / profitability Policy institutions Environmental impacts Willing practitioners / norms Maintenance Social embedding Skilled workforce Components Technological artefacts Create processes whereby people can align socio-technical elements into working configurations and create powerful new systems
  • 10. Governance for low carbon systems Create processes whereby people can create powerful low carbon systems scientific disciplines infrastructure requirements Product/service markets carbon markets system management NGO partnerships environmental impacts niche markets maintenance capacities public acceptability skilled workforce reliable components supply chain training / accreditation planning process social movements trade associations informed finance specialist services Insurance provision affected communities wider culture sensitive regulation sponsoring public bodies consumer behaviour
  • 11. Norms and routines of engineers and developers Business models and markets Economies of scale and networks Infrastructures for connecting components Institutions for coordinating and reproducing systems Consumer habits and social practices Political power and access to decision-making Governance for low carbon systems needs also to unsettle governance by incumbent ‘regimes’ – create space for experimentation Incumbent systems ‘govern’ through co-evolving path-dependencies: Governance by incumbent systems
  • 12. Multi-level heuristic on system transitions Source: Geels (2002)
  • 13. Initial consequences arising from this frame Dichotomous view of transition : Institutionalised incumbent vs. Emergent new; a move from A to B (cf. plurality of socio-technical developments across places) Transition requires niches that build momentum in response to regime and landscape processes and opportunities Actors reproduce processes in each level, but are they assume to be subordinate to transition requirements? Landscape is background driver (cf. something to be transformed)
  • 14. Framing transition governance Source: Geels (2002) Pressure on regime to become sustainable Empowering environmental awareness and values Pathways to visions Pathways to visions Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Learning / process Politics / substance
  • 15. Framing transition governance Source: Geels (2002) Pressure on regime to become sustainable Empowering environmental awareness and values Whose visions count? Pathways to visions Pathways to visions Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Learning / process Politics / substance
  • 16. Framing transition governance Source: Geels (2002) Pressure on regime to become sustainable Empowering environmental awareness and values Whose visions count? Pathways to visions Pathways to visions Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Learning / process Politics / substance
  • 17. Framing transition governance Source: Geels (2002) Pressure on regime to become sustainable Empowering environmental awareness and values Whose lessons should drive future adaptations? Whose visions count? How to redistribute commitments in socially just ways? How to destabilise the regime? Where does all this take place? Which niches to support; whose criteria? Pathways to visions Pathways to visions Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Learning / process Politics / substance
  • 18. Two constructive responses to framing issues: 1. Add further patches to a framework 2. Switch to other framings, compare and experiment Space for experimentation in governance? An objectifying requirement – framework that settles issues in the context of existing policy institutions A reflexive expectation - diverse frameworks that stimulate plural approaches Scope for experimenting with framings?
  • 19. System transitions perspectives in low carbon governance discourse The MLP illustrates framing issues critical for governance Objectification and reflexivity in governance Plural framings contributing to social experimentation in governance and climate change Summarising
  • 20. The allure and challenges of a multi-level transitions framing Smith, Vo β and Grin (2010) Research Policy 39, 4 Smith, Stirling and Berkhout (2005) Research Policy 34, 10 The implementation of a transitions narrative into policy Smith and Kern (2009) Environmental Politics 18, 1 Vo β , Smith and Grin (2009) Policy Studies 42, 4 Objectification and reflexivity in systems framings Smith and Stirling (2007) Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning 9, 3-4 Smith and Stirling (2010) Ecology & Society 15, 1 Thank you! And for more details ...
  • 21. Commitment and appraisal in governance Governance Socio-technical system Open-up or Broad Outputs: Close-down Social commitments Ontological: material & discursive reproduction of the system Social appraisal Epistemic: understanding the system & options for change Inputs: Narrow or Diverse Interventions: Optimal
  • 22. An objectifying social science: governance on the ‘outside’ Commitments Appraisal 1. Governance predicated upon a socially recognised, yet inchoate, sustainability problem Socio-technical object 4. Unitary set of interventions reconfigure the socio-technical object according to specific commitments privileged in appraisal 3. Appraisal aggregates perspectives and closes down around single socio-technical object 2. Different actors prioritise different inputs to appraisal
  • 23. A reflexive social science: governance on the ‘inside’ Commitments Appraisal 3. Reflexive opening-up of appraisal under alternative framings 4. Closure achieved through wider political discourse about commitments & a diverse portfolio of interventions are made 2. Reflexive acknowledgement of multiple framings of the socio- technical practices 1. Governance predicated upon a socially recognised, yet inchoate, sustainability problem Framing # n … Framing # 2 ‘ System’ seen by framing # 1
  • 24. Contrasting governance strategies GOVERNANCE PERSPECTIVE GOVERNANCE FUNCTION ‘ Governance on the Outside ’ external intervention by governance subject in socio-technical object ‘ Governance on the Inside ’ internal co-constituting of governance and socio-technical subjects Appraisal Broadening-out the inputs to appraisal / extended reflection Scoping a particular sustainability problem / goal Aggregating ‘relevant’ actor perspectives Sustainability indicators treated as metrics Drive to objectify the socio-technical system Informing commitment formation Analysis and deliberation over ‘the best option(s)’ 1st order learning: effectiveness of appraisal/intervention Opening-up the outputs of appraisal / pluralistic reflexivity Accepting contested nature of sustainability Exploring different actor framings Indicators treated as heuristics System ambiguity accepted Empowering deliberation over commitments Incommensurable perspectives, conditional and situated options 2nd order learning: consequences of different framings Clear distinction between appraisal and commitment in governance stages. Reflexive interaction between appraisal and commitment processes in governance. Commitment Appraisal determines commitment formation Managing governance interventions Legitimacy derives from objectivity or authority of appraisal Concentration and uniformity of commitment Aversion to failure Unilinear, unidimensional and discrete interventions Episodic and isolated commitment making Interventions are functionalist Appraisal conditionally informs commitment formation Closure through wider governance discourse Legitimacy is negotiated through governance Ensuring strategic diversity, resilience and robustness Irony and social learning Multilinear, multidimensional and flexible repertoires Constantly renegotiated and pervasive Interventions are power laden Attitude to governance Largely instrumental managerial function Fundamentally engaged political process
  • 25. Further information Policy Science Research Policy Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning
  • 26. The scale of the challenge: UK illustration 2006 emissions International aviation & shipping* UK non-CO 2 GHGs Other CO 2 Industry (heat & industrial processes) Residential & Commercial heat Domestic transport Electricity Generation * bunker fuels basis 2050 objective 159 Mt CO 2 e 695 Mt CO 2 e 77% cut (= 80% vs. 1990)
  • 27. UK Low Carbon Transition Plan

Editor's Notes

  1. Thanks to the study group for the invitation!
  2. My talk is quite general. Where I use illustrations, then they will tend to draw from the energy sector, which is a big carbon emitter and underpins other sectors. I will also talk from a UK perspective, though the general nature of my remarks means some have relevance elsewhere too. Finally, since our origami programmes permit the gathering and sorting of concepts, much of my presentation is about ways of thinking about low carbon governance, rather than specific practical instances. The purpose is to argue that the research-governance interface (if we can construe it like that) needs to be much more open and experimental towards various approaches to understanding and acting upon deep-seated societal problems. Deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be used as an illustration. As we’ll see, transitions imply changes to norms and rules, so it is odd that governance approaches do not experiment with methodological norms and rules too.
  3. If we look across key policy documents, reports from business and civil society associations, think tanks, and sometimes the media, then I think it is fair to say the discourses therein share a number of general features. What is less apparent in these ‘mainstream’ discussions are questions of political economy, social change, and carbon intensifying systems processes – something I pick up later. Also, in taking a systemic view, there is a risk that one attempts a comprehensive and functional view (from nowhere). Different actor perspectives, identities and interests become lost or overlooked – something I also pick up later. But lets turn to the two aspects of the low governance challenge: governance for new, low carbon systems; and governance by incumbent, high carbon systems.
  4. Simplify into a tractable system in context. This system needs to be transformed: new system emerging from old; or new displacing old. Different frameworks exist for thinking about how to conceive and go about this transition.
  5. Framings might be held by different coalitions of actors. Or they might derive from different social science frameworks and approaches, e.g. the MLP cf. practice theory cf. long-wave theory cf. punctuated equilibrium models E.g. of different framings arises when we contrast a framing of electricity as a commodity cf. as supporting a service. We view and intervene in electricity systems differently if we take a commodity cf. service perspective. Commodity view looks at generating increasing flows of electricity. Service view looks at supply and demand side and regulatory mechanisms that are inclined to provision of things like light, warmth, cooling, power for appliances; and might intervene on the demand side too.
  6. E.g. of different framings arises when we contrast a framing of electricity as a commodity cf. as supporting a service. We view and intervene in electricity systems differently if we take a commodity cf. service perspective. Commodity view looks at generating increasing flows of electricity. Service view looks at supply and demand side and regulatory mechanisms that are inclined to provision of things like light, warmth, cooling, power for appliances; and might intervene on the demand side too.
  7. This observation is probably quite obvious and uncontroversial for this audience. We are not only aware of how different research subjects frame systems differently, but in our more reflexive moments we are also aware of how our own framings of their framings – our plural theoretical approaches – has a bearing on the way we observe, validate and understand the evidence before us. But what I wish to consider in the final part of my presentation is the implications for our engagement in policy and purposeful low carbon governance more generally. How the appetite and expectations for certain forms of evidence, analysis and social scientific recommendations amongst policy-makers, business and civil society associations frames us as researchers, and the kinds of analysis deemed to have ‘impact’ and therefore useful.
  8. Think of this as getting electricity from the sea, and not as a technology per se. SeaGen marine tidal stream generator. Needs many other things in place before it becomes commercially successful: Scientific knowlegde (e.g. materials science); Core technology; Investment; Viable electricity market price; Carbon prices that minimise risk; Access to the grid; Regulations that allow favourable access; Smart grid management – intermittency; Marine renewables engineers; Maintenance systems; Supply chains; Environmental impacts are known and reasonable; Socially acceptable Sociology of technology demonstrates these interacting together determine whether the innovation ‘works’: not just R&D subsidy plus market signals Will R&D plus carbon markets really align all these components into a working configuration? Policies are being layered onto the basic supports, e.g. training programmes, infrastructure provision. Unrealistic to expect a smooth development of a marine energy system. But could lessons be learnt in a more rounded way? Articulate all these issues in coordinating arenas? Lots of learning from failure and long-term commitment. Note: this is still a technology-led example. Chosen because this is a more familiar point of departure. But a more interesting point of departure might be to start by thinking about 20 per cent carbon lifestyles, and all that this would entail. NB: this is for a technology and NOT an entire system of provision (like electricity), which bundle together many technologies and social practices. Systems innovation is an even greater challenge! Finally, all this is taking place in reference to (and in the context of) incumbent high carbon systems for realising the equivalent social need; and alongside alternative proposals for equivalent low carbon systems. Also, realising in double sense: how best to achieve a known social need; but also how best to figure out what that (changeable) need is in the first place.
  9. Think of this as getting electricity from the sea, and not as a technology per se. SeaGen marine tidal stream generator. Needs many other things in place before it becomes commercially successful: Scientific knowlegde (e.g. materials science); Core technology; Investment; Viable electricity market price; Carbon prices that minimise risk; Access to the grid; Regulations that allow favourable access; Smart grid management – intermittency; Marine renewables engineers; Maintenance systems; Supply chains; Environmental impacts are known and reasonable; Socially acceptable Sociology of technology demonstrates these interacting together determine whether the innovation ‘works’: not just R&D subsidy plus market signals Will R&D plus carbon markets really align all these components into a working configuration? Policies are being layered onto the basic supports, e.g. training programmes, infrastructure provision. Unrealistic to expect a smooth development of a marine energy system. But could lessons be learnt in a more rounded way? Articulate all these issues in coordinating arenas? Lots of learning from failure and long-term commitment. Note: this is still a technology-led example. Chosen because this is a more familiar point of departure. But a more interesting point of departure might be to start by thinking about 20 per cent carbon lifestyles, and all that this would entail. NB: this is for a technology and NOT an entire system of provision (like electricity), which bundle together many technologies and social practices. Systems innovation is an even greater challenge! Finally, all this is taking place in reference to (and in the context of) incumbent high carbon systems for realising the equivalent social need; and alongside alternative proposals for equivalent low carbon systems. Also, realising in double sense: how best to achieve a known social need; but also how best to figure out what that (changeable) need is in the first place.
  10. These alternative pathways are trying to build momentum in the context of a centralised, large-scale energy regime that has developed over decades. It tends to disadvantage alternatives. This slide and previous illustrate low carbon governance involves more than correcting market failures. But it also begs questions about how to organise portfolios of plural activities that seek to transitions through the combination of destabilising/dismantling de facto governance by high carbon incumbent systems and nurturing the development of low carbon systems. Need to try and look at interactions between technology/politics/markets/culture – socio-technical systems.
  11. This multi-level heuristic attempts to cover the big, long-term picture. It brings various processes into interaction, not least governance by incumbent systems and governance for ‘niche’ alternatives, and both in the context of wider socio-economic and environmental processes beyond the control of the system under consideration. So each level is increasingly structural, and a transition from one regime structure to another proceeds through interactions between each level: Alignments in the incumbent regime become problematic when they prevent it responding sufficiently to new social problems emerging at a landscape level but finding some focus on the regime (like climate change and energy systems) Niche spaces where the rules are different allow experimentation with alternatives, and which promise to perform better against the emerging values that are unsettling the regime – opening windows of opportunity for growth, development, interaction with incumbent energy systems (e.g. new project looking at community energy – local groups approach energy differently to big 6 utilities, which widens and makes more plural the variety of s-t configurations; e.g. RD&D initiatives of firms developing alternative technologies) New combinations and socio-technical reconfigurations lead to the emergence of a new regime, which some influence in wider society (the landscape) The allure of this heuristic is that it provides a relatively straightforward narrative for the transformation of wide-scale socio-technical systems. It suggests the possibility of contextualising and organising relations between more specific, in-depth constructions and broader, more evolutionary processes, e.g. the provision of skills in relation to niche markets, the influence of environmentalists, green financing. It also goes way beyond neo-classical economic and individual behavioural approaches that have a grip over policy advice. The S-curve of growing and more structurally robust practices emerging out of niche settings. Perhaps there is also something about the David-versus-Goliath, good-underdog versus over-bearing baddie narrative that appeals to deep-seated themes in our folklore.
  12. NB: perhaps turn notes below into a slide? This might work for some kinds of low carbon ‘niches’ where there is a radical vision in contention with a regime other, such as local organic food systems cf. global industrial food, or early forms of autonomous eco-housing cf. volume house-building. But framing in this dichotomous way risks bracketing out other forms of transition, perhaps operating within incumbent systems, or beyond them in the broader landscape that nevertheless impact upon the specific systems of concern (### - example!?). Also, directs the search towards choices of niches with clear sense of direction for their regime-transforming potential, which can be difficult to assess ex ante. Difficult because transformation on this scale implies changing the rules, whereas niches tend to be assessed on grounds of existing (regime) rules – see later. So simplification comes with its risks, since some actors associated with incumbent systems are increasingly articulating low carbon and other sustainability reforms, and there are a plurality of low carbon alternatives contending for attention, each with their flawed characteristics. A conceptualisation more accurate than the dichotomy between incumbent regime and niche alternative is of a plurality of systems seeking to realise a given (yet changing) societal need. Some systems more institutionalised than others, operating over wider domains, and reproduced in arenas that realise the interests of more powerful actors. The framework was developed through a limited number of historical cases based on secondary sources. As such, the outcome was known (a new regime whose socio-technical system characteristics were identifiable through hindsight), and the successful multi-level processes leading to transformation can be traced back from there. The contending systems that lost out can become obscured as a result of this kind of history. Another consequence of the kinds of evolutionary history and social science informing the framework is that systems processes risk being seen in functional and necessary terms – x led to y – with the contests and uncertainties prevalent amongst actors at the time becoming lost. Finally, some key governance considerations are bracketed together in the ‘landscape’: wider processes and drivers of social change; political economy; key institutions. So, for example, shifting geography of global economic growth, rapid urbanisation, hyper-mobilities, the peaking of oil. These can work to reinforce regimes (and disadvantage niches) as much as other landscape processes destabilise niches (but not necessarily in favour of green niches) These framing consequences have a material impact in the kinds of policy portfolios being developed (e.g. in NL): the kinds of governance activity that gets emphasised, what is acceptable and unacceptable targets for change, and how they should be targeted. This becomes apparent when we consider how some analysts and policy-makers have sought to turn this heuristic into an instrument for policy and low carbon governance. In low carbon governance, the regimes of the future are not yet known, and the contests and uncertainties about where to go are pronounced.
  13. Transition governance is a process based framework for adaptive learning and intervention. Fundamental concern with these pragmatic activities is to learn more about socio-technical dynamics and seek institutional reforms that will permit the most promising niches and pathways to flourish. TM mainly focused on envisaging low carbon systems and niche experimentation (positive ideas about innovation, rational learning, project management). Problem-framing is central – but issue of frame conflicts not really considered. Implies an elite vanguard of strategic thinkers capable of knowing what is socially optimal, and that their deliberations should lead the future shaping of low carbon societies. Other aspects of transitions less prominent: empowering social movements and taking grassroots innovation seriously; destabilising and unlocking the incumbent energy system; redistributing resources. These are more overtly political tasks. Whose visions count? People frame current energy systems differently, see the challenges differently, prefer different alternatives. How to negotiate consent; and how to include dissent? NL: went to existing policy networks, who tend to dominate; no partcptn from NGOs and cmmnties . Which niches to support; whose criteria? How diverse a range of socially and technologically led niches to support? Making sure technology does not eclipse behaviour initiatives? Plural criteria, or universal criteria, when to bring in market criteria? NL: technology niches favoured over social change niches (80% lifestyle); criteria are trumped by CBA and business advantage for NL, cf. transition potential . Whose lessons should drive future adaptations? Groups will draw different lessons from experiments. Niche pioneers are always convinced there time has come (e.g. renewable energy activists 35 years ago). Others draw different conclusions. How to arbitrate? NL: need for quick wins to demonstrate success of approach eclipse more difficult lessons about longer-term challenges; also – stable investment envt and no stranded assets – less adptble in future? How to destabilise the regime? Incumbent energy practices need to be disrupted, even stopped, such that the alternatives become even more attractive. But we all depend on the incumbents, so how to unsettle without too much disruption? NL: TM informs energy R&D, but not yet driving other areas of energy policy (infrastructure development, market rules, etc); not informing regime sticks to complement the niche carrots How to redistribute resources? LCT implies a hundreds of billions in investments. Some of this will be redistributive. How to manage this process? How to avoid pork barrel politics? Some commitments will inevitably require long-lived infrastructures and institutions, which works against desires to be adaptive. How to manage that tension? How to make sure it is socially just? NL: growing budget for niches, but as just said, not really undermining the regime . Where does this take place? This is both institutional and geographic. Institutionally: Which bits of government facilitate these initiatives; how does TM sit relative to more established policy networks and institutions; how does TM connect with important democratic institutions and public accountability? Geographically: important processes and elements of a transition operate above and below the national scale (e.g. business strategies of MNC, technology demonstration, urban infrastructure). How does TM engage with processes beyond its jurisdiction? NL: still a fairly technical policy issue, cf. a mass political debate .
  14. As a heuristic, the framework is very good, because it generates all sorts of questions. A growing number of social scientists are developing analyses that can help answer these questions. In principle, some of the preceding critical issues could be addressed by doing TM better: e.g. improved participation process, more diverse niches, empowering its role within policy-making institutions (putting TM in the driving seat). But it retains a managerial flavour: an integrated package of organisational operations. Can reliance on consensus amongst an elite vanguard, using niche-based momentum for change, and seeking strategic falling into step from more powerful institutions really work on its own? Others are developing alternative frameworks entirely, because of limitations in the multi-level perspective. early winners versus long-term change; Adaptive, learning oriented approach versus politically tough choices over long-lived infrastructures and institutions; opening the diversity of participants and sites for transition; ensuring democratic legitimacy Non-voluntary transitions and authority to impose change: “A low carbon economy … will entail … the transformation of our lives and of our economy” (HMG, 2008: 2, Building a low carbon economy). Perhaps the abolition of slavery, urban sanitation, and the creation of the welfare state provide historical precedents. Whilst both involved political leadership, they were backed by mass social movements. Given the scale, and coercive quality of the change, there ought to be democratic oversight. Empowering low carbon citizens and communities might operate beyond TG: could this scheme work for them? It is about community politics, and connecting concerns for low carbon transition with the more everyday and immediate concerns of people. Suggesting how lower carbon investment can bring hope and aspiration to those everyday lives. Political programme is not just setting legally binding targets (though this is good), but binding people to certain activities, whilst ruling other activities out. A political approach concedes that the learning in TG is unlikely to be singularly rational: there will be conflicts over the lessons to be taken. Legitimacy may need to be won over in ways additional to framing questions and answers in the right way. To what extent are urgency and legitimacy in opposition? Is it possible to undertake urgent large-scale change without popular legitimacy, or will it be derailed? Will a focus on bottom-up legitimacy facilitate exponential growth in support? Can we learn from precedents in, say, abolition of slavery, or public sanitation, or weapons control? There is not time to cover some of these responses. However, I do wish to consider something a bit deeper, which is the roles of social science in answering these kinds of questions, and in developing alternative frameworks for thinking about wide-scale, systemic transformation. This leads to us asking what are the purposes of social science I systems-based approaches to low carbon governance.
  15. Adding corrective patches (e.g. regime destabilisation; unpacking the ‘landscape’; turn to everyday practices): get unwieldy elaborations (especially when everyone provides different patches)? Trade-offs between explanatory generality/scope, simplicity, and specificity. Risky strategy: a) the persuasively parsimonious narrative is lost, and so too is policy interest lost; b) success depends upon uptake by social actors, and if this framework is ignored then the researcher’s service to society is diminished. OR, more likely, the implementation of the framework in policy has already set a more narrow meaning shaped by existing institutions (as earlier slides suggested) 2. Switch to other framings and experiment – means there is a portfolio of framings that researchers can explore with other social actors, including policy-makers. Researchers can be of greater service to society by helping deliberations in this way – offering different ways of viewing the problem and solutions. But it might confuse those social actors who expect research to provide answers. Objectifying: implies a linear (or at best circular) research-policy interface; policy-makers commission or seek advise from the framework they find most persuasive (or that legitimises their objectives). Researchers have to convince policy-makers that their framework is best. Reflexivity: policy-makers no longer see research in terms of answers or fixes, but as a process that can help political debate in society, by bringing in a variety of frameworks for application in institutional experimentation. Transitions change the rules: need experimentation and plurality in the policy-research interface (cf. contests for the ‘best’ framework). The hope is that this more participatory approach empowers a wider movement of low carbon actors and systems, and serves to disempower incumbent systems Closure of RCEP, SDC and the removal of policy discussion freedoms at the Environment Agency do not bode well for the level of plurality, experimentation and debate in governance for sustainability.
  16. Research institutions: funding, measures of excellence, evaluations of impact , research training, research-teaching-engagement models, etc
  17. Commitments: ontological – ways of being – real relationships formed, tangible resources deployed, and concrete actions taken. Material commitments – to reproduction of system (e.g. capital finance, knowledge, regulatory protection, user demand, liability. These commitments related to benefits deriving from system, e.g. mobility, efficiency, conenience & style in whihch service is provided. Discursive commitments – overlaying, informing and informed by material commitments. Discursive commitments can be privately-held, normative views on validity of existing system; or wider discourses supportive or critical of the system. Have ontological character of commitment by asserting a position on how to be in the world. Discourse helps coordination system reproduction and governance. Obviously, shades into appraisal function: discourses can furnish framewors=ks for appraisal (as will see later). Change has to negotiate and intervene in these commitments – power, legitimacy. Historic commitments/structered power Appraisal: epistemic – ways of understanding the system and its sustainability performance, producing substve undstndings, social learning & culutral meanings of st system Appraisal inputs: narrow or broad wrt issues, depth of relations studied, salient bodies of knwldge, treatment of uncties, options, measures available. Broader imples prectny, reflctve Appraisal outputs: closing down or opening up – manner in which o/ps & consequences are represted. E.g. closure around particular st practices & rcmmdtns for a precsribed set of cmmtmnts, or reveal open endedness, contending understandings, variety of options and implctns for commnt formtn. Reflexive governance: opening up, commitments and appraisals are mutually constituted
  18. Gov arena concptualised separetly from st object (NB: and sustainability problems). Unique boundaries, operation and consequences are knowable through appraisal and can be predictably altered. Aggregation of difft actor perspctves – pieces of the jigsaw – sgle episteme. Obvious ‘best’ course of action – closure reached through appraisal. Appraisal has objctve authty that entrains cmmtmnts of actors, who adhere to rcmdtns Functionalist – everyone bends to objve reqmnts of sustble system Managerial exercise Govce failure = inaccurate appraisal or sectional interests refuse to come into line Problems Positivist – complex, dynamic world – closure always provisional, race to keep up with ‘events’ – but more of same will not do … Contested nature of sustainability – incmmsble dimensions of perfmnce Dfftly cmmted actors have fundamentally difft mental maps/framings of system Can get co-evltn of framings – develop in interaction with other framings - but some are more co- than others. Power reltns – some framings bring in more infltl coalitions than others. Ngting framings ‘constructs’ the st – governance constitutive of st
  19. Acknwldges contestability, uncties and intptve chllnges of undstig st system (NB: and SD problems) Reflexive – multiple (but not infinite) simultaneous ways of knowing system that are dfft Govce co-constitute the st Multiple framings considered – plural epistemes – related to cmmtmnts of dfft actors Do not close down through appraisal Instead, negotiate commtmnts formtn openly – arrive at plural portfolio of options/cmmtmnts. Recgse how cmmtmnts frame appraisal Legitimacy a critical issue here. Problems Limitations in degree of reflexivity Idealised symmetrical social partnerships and learning do not arise Other governance processes override sustainability (e.g. trade policy) Avoid relativistic trap – anything does not go. Instead, discrete number of logically coherent possibilities (attractor basins) – artefacts have intptve flexibility, but completely maleable, natural limits. Wider political discourse disrupts govnce delbtns. Something about keeping a plurality of evaluative frameworks – since transition is about changing the rules of the game, we need also to experiment with the rules (cf. evaluate everything against current rules and performance of regimes).
  20. Looking at some of these strategies, it should become clear that roles for social science differ. Key question – do two perspectives always contradict one another? Short answer – yes (positivist and critical realist foundations) Long answer – dynamic tension: real world governance processes have bits of both present – trying to resolve the tensions that arise gives governance its dynamism. The key point is to acknowledge this dynamic and to learn from these movements between objectification and reflexivity. Overriding objctve in left hand col is to objectify Overriding objctve in right is to increase reflexivity In practice, dynamics of governance derive from tensions and oscillations between the two, i.e. Desire to become more reflexive, frustrated by institutional requirements to objectify, which in turn are undermined by a lack of reflexivity, and so on – but the specific permutations will be a mix of the strategies and implications in our cells. E.g. governance process that uses appraisal to open up, but does not have effective deliberation processes to consider commitment formation, that still hopes appraisal will provide answers, is bound to come unstuck by this combination. In practice, even the soundest scientific approaches are not driven by evidence and narrow appraisal alone, even if there is a pretence towards it.
  21. Taken from the Climate Change Committee report, Building a Low Carbon Economy, in December 2008. Stark illustration of the extent of decarbonisation required across many systems in society. Now legally binding on the UK government – hence new policy strategies like UK Low Carbon Transition Policy Scottish Climate Change Bill (awaiting Royal Ascent) even more ambitious potentially, seeking 42 per cent cut by 2020 compared to UK government target of 34 per cent. Also, Scottish Bill requires ministers to take cumulative emissions into account when setting annual targets. G8 L’Aquila statement in July 09 agreed to similar targets European Commission also talking about transitions.
  22. Taken from the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan published by DECC in July 2009 European Commission also talking about transitions.