The politics of socio-technical transitions #03

Here’s the third post on this topic, ahead of a symposium on Monday. You can read the first one here and the second one here.

Mostly I’ll be extolling the virtues of;

Newell, P. and Paterson, M. (1998) A climate for business: global warming, the state and capital. Review of International Political Economy Vo.. 5 (4) 679-703.


Grazia Cecere, G., Corrocher, N., & Gossart, C. & Muge Ozman, M. (2014)Lock-in and path dependence: an evolutionary approach to eco-innovations Journal of Evolutionary Economics Vol 231: 1037-1065.

with a couple of digressions and notes-to-self.

This (Newell and Paterson) is my bread and butter, and though I’d read it yonks (about 6 months), I’d forgotten how good it is, both on the theory but also the rich series of anecdotes.

Here are some clippings.

These groups have adopted a number of arguments to defend their hostile position towards action on climate change.

They have emphasized remaining scientific uncertainties concerning global warming, in order to suggest that the scientific evidence is inadequate as a basis for limitations on CO2 emissions.

They have engaged in what most commentators regard as highly misleading campaigns in the mass media, suggesting that there is no evidence for global warming.

They have argued that the costs of emissions to industrialized economies of limiting emissions will be very high, and will significantly reduce GDP.

They have also argued that this will have other economic consequences, in terms of large job losses, with a high degree of regional concentration in areas involved in, for example, coal mining, oil extraction and processing, or car production.

They have also tried to construct transnational alliances with other states, particularly with OPEC states with which they have clearly consistent interests, but also with developing countries in general, trying to persuade them that the adoption of emissions limitations by industrialized countries would have severe economic impacts on them, primarily through increases in prices for energy and manufactures (Johnson, 1997).
(Newell and Paterson, 1998:683) (emphasis added


Oil companies are often also gas companies, and in the short term can cushion any impacts of limits on oil use with increased gas sales, in transition towards an economy based on renewables. (Shell, for example, anticipates in its internal models an entirely solar economy by the end of the twenty-first century.) Coal companies, by contrast, have no such cushion.
(Newell and Paterson, 1998:692-3)


US concern to protect its energy industries again surfaced at the third meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change (INC) in Nairobi in September 1991, where the USA showed itself sensitive to the energy sector being singled out and proposed that agriculture be cited as well (ECO, 1991b: 3).15 Concern for these industries on the part of governments explicitly worked its way into the text of the Climate Convention. Article 4 (part 10) states that special consideration should be given to those countries whose economies are ‘highly dependent’ on producing or consuming fossil fuels, the very economies whose transition to a post-greenhouse economy is most urgently required (United Nations, 1992: articles 4.10 and 4.8). The World Coal Institute (WCI) and other groups were instrumental in the drafting of this proposal in collaboration with such states as Australia. The fact that the negotiations witnessed governments anxiously protecting the very industries that contribute on a large scale to the greenhouse effect bears testimony to the particular strength of the energy lobby and brings into focus the problem of expecting states to regulate sectors of industry with which they share key interests.
(Newell and Paterson, 1998:687)

I had less time, oddly, for Moore, M.-L., O. Tjornbo, E. Enfors, C. Knapp, J. Hodbod, J. A. Baggio, A. Norström, P. Olsson, and D. Biggs. 2014.Studying the complexity of change: toward an analytical framework for understanding deliberate social-ecological transformations. Ecology and Society 19(4): 54. I say oddly because I used to really like the Social-Ecological Systems way of looking at things.  But it seems too abstract, too biologically driven.  I could be wrong…

The Cecere et al. paper was interesting too, and good on the differences between eco-innovations and standard innovation, evolutionary economics (naturally, given the journal it appears in!) and the types of path-dependence.

The extent to which lock-in and path dependence generate costs and inefficiency to the economy has been more carefully discussed by Liebovitz and Margolis (1995), who distinguish among three forms of path dependence. The first-degree path dependence is a situation whereby the influence of some initial events on the final outcome does not create any inefficiency in the economy. The second-degree path dependence is characterized by the scarcity of information in the initial phases of decisional process, which leads to regrettable outcomes that are not remediable. Finally, the third-degree path dependence refers to situations in which an inefficient outcome could have been avoided because of the existing better alternatives.Witt (1997) also suggests that the (detrimental) effects of lock-in need to be considered in light of the existing conditions – e.g. effective availability of better alternatives. In particular, the original model of Arthur (1989) relies on the assumption that technological lock-in amounts to foregoing wealth increases.
Cecere et al. (2014:1042)

It’s good on “cost-related factors, technological niches and complexity” “role of stakeholders” etc
Overall, this seems to be a comprehensive (disclaimer – I am not as on top of this field as I one day hope to be) overview. The glossary of terms “Definitions of eco-innovation” at the end though, IS really helpful

So, what have I learnt/what would I add from the reading?

1) blocking coalitions are a Crucial Thing

2) Cobb and Ross “Agenda Denial”

agenda denial-page001

and the counter-rhetorics way of thinking.

Other things I defo should read –
“Business and the genesis of the European Community carbon tax proposal”
“The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of business in the regulatory process associated with the carbon tax proposal. The first part of the paper describes the Community’s climate change policy, noting first the essential features of Community environment policy-making, the role of consultation with industry and the significance of the ‘subsidiarity’ principle. This part of the paper moves on to examine the carbon tax proposal and its evolution since 1990. The second part of the paper addresses the specific role which business played in influencing the development of the carbon tax proposal. The general strategy of business was to block the proposal entirely. The paper identifies the potential impacts of the tax on business, implications for corporate strategies and the specific channels through which business influenced the tax proposal, by participating in public debates, through representations to different directorates of the European Commission or by making a case to national authorities. The final part of the paper attempts ta draw some lessons about: the business position in relation to large scale environmental problems such as climate change; business responses to economic instruments such as the carbon energy tax; and the wider relationship between public authorities and business in regulatory processes. The question of whether this relationship has entered a new phase or whether there is still ’business as usual’ is addressed.”
Ikwue, T. and Skea, J. (1994) ‘Business and the genesis of the European carbon tax proposal’, Business Strategy and the Environment, 3(2): 1–10.
How does that compare to Australian coal industry (and broader capitalist sectors) successful efforts  to scupper a carbon tax in the early 1990s?

What would I write about if I could (had the time) around the politics of socio-technical transitions

  • The failings of social movement organisations (and what – in theory- to do about it) as niche actors/regime co-creators
  • The collapse – generally – of responsive states. Policy-making has become ever-more-insulated, more neo-liberalised. States stripped of their capacity, their confidence, their legitimacy.  (In the Anglo-Saxon world).

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