#Awalkinthepark  – fantasy technologies, fantasy policies and polar bears #wearetoast

So, over the last two days, even with The Wife about, I have somehow contrived to read nine journal articles about policy theory, policy implementation etc.  I really do need to get out more.  Rather than blog them in the order I read them, imma go for some sort of logical clumping (the borders are, of course, fuzzy).  This time-

den Besten, J. Arts, B. and and Verkooijen, P. 2014. The evolution of REDD+: An analysis of discursive-institutional dynamics. Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 35, pp.40-48.

Lerum Boasson, E. and  Wettestad, J. 2014. Policy invention and entrepreneurship: Bankrolling the burying of carbon in the EU. Global Environmental Change, November 2014, Vol.29, pp.404-412.

Brunner, S. 2008. Understanding policy change: Multiple streams and emissions trading in Germany. Global Environmental Change, Vol 18, pp.501– 507.

So, den Besten et al tell the tale of the growth of “REDD+” from an idea to a policy between 200 to 2011, using a Discursive Institutional Analysis.  It’s an interesting tale, well told, and it is deeply depressing, yet useful.

They ask (and answer)

1) What actors or groups of actors took part in the negotiation process that culminated in the REDD+ agreements?
2) What ideas and concepts did these actors introduce or contest in this process?
3) To what extent did the REDD+ discourse contribute to changes in institutional arrangements and how did the institutional context in turn influence the further develop-ment of the discourse?
(den Besten, et al., 2014: 41)

They use discursive institutionalism (see multiple recent #walkinthepark blog posts) to good effect and introduce the concept of the “discursive institutional spiral”

This term refers to the dynamic process of institutionalisation of discourses on the one hand and the opening up of discourses in response to these institutionalisation processes on the other. It suggests the ‘spiralling’ of a discourse through expanding constellations of actors and ideas that contribute to discourse development, and subsequent moments of discourse institutionalisation in arrangements and practices. The discourse then narrows down, including and excluding certain ideas in new rulemaking. Such spiralling is also an expression of power, because some actors and ideas will ‘win’ over others in this discursive-institutional process.
(den Besten, et al., 2014: 41)

Predictably enough, there was a cynical birth to this particular fantasy policy  [my interpretation]–

“developed nations with large expanses of forests dominated the debate at this time. They wanted to be allowed to credit the protection of their forests and use these credits to offset part of their carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction obligations. This led to protracted discussions with other developed countries and the complete disengagement of developing countries”
(den Besten, et al., 2014: 42)

And of course, quelle surprise

As REDD+ initiatives developed, the realisation also grew that its implementers lacked the capacity to tackle the drivers of deforestation, in particular international drivers associated with commercial agriculture (Karsenty, 2008). Finally, many countries found that the coordination of REDD+ with other sectors such as energy, food and commodity agriculture proved difficult…
(den Besten, et al., 2014: 44)


So, this spiral, and the discourse coalitions, probably meshes well with Kingdon’s “policy entrepreneurs” and the recent (Mukherjee and Howlett) work, which I will come back to.

Here’s the spiral, btw-

discursive spiral policy stream


They conclude, reasonably enough –

“Ideas do not emerge out of a void and an expansion of ideas and actors is needed to come to new institutionalisation processes. Hence, ideas and institutions are symbiotic and cannot exist separately.”
(den Besten, et al., 2014: 4ˊ)

Reader, I REDD it and wept, and imho you should too.

Next up, another brilliant paper – Lerum Boasson and Wetestad have written a corker about how CCS became (briefly) flavour of the month, thanks to “tortoise” and “carpe diem” policy entrepreneurs.


introduce new distinctions between different kinds of entrepreneurship directed at opening and exploiting policy windows. Actors with differing motivations and commitments may perform entrepreneurship that contributes to policy invention: what we call deeply committed tortoises may help to create and shape a policy window, whereas carpe-diemers, with a shallower commitment and a more short-term approach, are more active in exploiting policy windows. Further, entrepreneurs may combine different techniques – prominent examples being ‘framing’ and what we call ‘procedural engineering’.
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:404)

What exactly is procedural engineering? I’m glad you asked. According to the authors, it is

is entrepreneurship directed at altering the distribution of authority and information concerning the political issue in question, for instance through networking, bargaining techniques, issue-couplings and initiation of new decision making procedures (see Boasson, 2014). In short, procedural engineering entrepreneurship is directed at changing ‘the rules of the game’. Procedural engineering covers many entrepreneurial techniques discussed in the literature on policy entrepreneurs, such as lobbying, coalition building, orchestrating networks, venue shopping and collaborative activities with elite groups (e.g. Roberts and King, 1991; Mintrom, 1997; Mintrom and Norman, 2009; Huitema and Meijerink, 2010).
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:405)

They think that without both torise and carpe diem entrepreneurship, windows of opportunity will come to naught (p.406).

They then tell the sad tale, which now seems ancient history, of how the European Council announced in March 2007 the goal of ‘up to 12’ CC demonstration plants in operation by 2015.  Oops.

They do this by policy document analysis but also a bunch of interviews –

Nor was CCS mentioned as a possible abatement option in the 2003 Emissions Trading Directive (Directive 2003/87). Our interviewees note that EU officials hardly paid attention to CCS at that time. A civil society representative mentions Commission officials from DG Environment who claimed that CCS was an unrealistic and somewhat ‘crazy’ idea.
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:407)

And interestingly, the US involvement (Futuregen etc) didn’t help, because of , well, Bush –

as noted by one EU official we interviewed, ‘CCS had a credibility problem (. . .) The Bush initiatives were more negative than positive for the EU process because the environmental camp was against everything that Bush was for.’
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:407)

Oddly (p.407) they bring the IPCC 4th Assessment report forward to 2006. Perhaps a typo?

There’s a nice quote from the former Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies, who was a reluctant but forceful advocate of CCS –

Davies, who had not engaged in CCS previously, summed up his view on CCS in these words: ‘I hate CCS. . .It is just that I hate coal more. We have to promote CCS. China, India and the US need to realize that they will have to pay a lot more if they want to use coal’ (quoted in Friends of Europe, 2008, p. 24). Davies swiftly started to exploit the policy window for CCS in an entrepreneurial manner….
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:408)

They suggest that four types of entrepreneurship mechanisms exist –

(1) Window Identification,
(2) Window Engineering,
(3) Agenda Setting and
(4) Decision Strategy.
First, Window Identification denotes the framing of a particular situation at a special moment in time as appropriate for dealing with certain political problems or solutions.…
Second, the Commission officials together with the German and French presidencies performed Window Engineering: they altered the formal decision-making procedures in a way that boosted the capacity of the political system for efficient, multiple decision-making.  [A sort of venue shopping and venue combining, possibly with some issue shopping too MH]
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:409-410)


And what is in it for some of these carpe diem entrepreneurs? Well, that’s obvious…

CCS was presented as an indis-pensable climate solution, necessary for the EU to be able to tackle future climate obligations and challenges. Pushing CCS gave the Carpe Diemers an opportunity to demonstrate their own political vigour and leadership.
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:410)


Why did they write the article?

Thus far, the literature on policy entrepreneurs has focused more on success factors that enable particular persons to be especially influential than on the defining characteristics of entrepreneurship. In this article we have rather conceptualized two important dimensions of entrepreneurship (i.e. techniques and commitment) in relation to the concept of window of opportunity and suggested four different entrepreneurship mechanisms. We hope that this can lead to a more nuanced debate about what entrepreneurship is and how it plays into policy making.
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:411)

Succeeded in spades This is a must-read/re-read…


Brunner’s piece is also very useful.  He too is interested in policy entrepreneurship, and how fantasy policies [again, my interpretation, not his] become ‘popular’. He uses Kingdon’s multiple streams framework, and its ‘policy window’ concept to look at how emissions trading came to Germany.

“At the same time, however, the findings imply that a number of relevant factors are not sufficiently considered by the theory, most notably the influence of multi-level governance structures, learning processes, and networks. This demonstrates that the multiple streams approach on its own is not sufficient to fully understand the case study example. Hence, for a better understanding of policy change it is suggested that scholars need to evaluate the potential for amending and combining Kingdon’s model with other explanatory approaches.”
(Brunner, 2008: 501)

There’s a nice observation that I’ve not seen elsewhere about the nature of policy windows –

When those three streams join they temporarily create advantageous choice opportunities which Kingdon terms ‘‘policy windows’’ or ‘‘windows of opportunity’’ (both terms are used interchangeably); a situation where a‘‘problem is recognised, a solution is developed and available in the policy community, a political change makes the right time for policy change, and potential constraints are not severe’’ (Kingdon, 1984, p. 174). Kingdon uses the metaphor of a launch window in a space flight mission. If the window is lost, then the launch has to wait until alignments become appropriate again. The successful launch of a policy change is the result of the opening of such a ‘‘window of opportunity’’ in the interplay of multiple streams. In this view, agendas are not just a reflection of power but also depend on chance.
(Brunner, 2008:502, emphasis added)

So, you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn that the energy companies told the politicians that the lights would go out;

The Commission asked the Ministry for the Environment (BMU), which is responsible for the allocation process, to scale back the amount of emission permits. German industry officials, however, urged the Government to resist. In a letter to Chancellor Merkel, the officials from large power firms alleged that if the Government agreed to the Commission’s demands, the additional costs would force industry to re-think planned investment in German energy capacity (VDEW, 2006).
(Brunner, 2008:502, emphasis added)

There’s a nice mention of “conflict expansion” and polar bears-

Born shortly before Christmas 2006 in the Berlin Zoo, Knut quickly came to embody an international symbol of climate change vulnerability. The German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel claimed that there is ‘‘no other animal that better symbolises global warming’’ (cited in Guardian, 2007). In a very emotional way Knut combined the two issues of global warming and animal rights. Such issue linkage can provide significant opportunities for policy entrepreneurs (Howlett, 1998). According to Kingdon (1984, p. 173) the key element in conflict expansion is the way an issue is framed. Following this logic, environmentalists used Knut to expand the reach of global warming to the controversy on animal rights.
(Brunner, 2008:503)

This last paper needs to be combined with Winkel and Leipold, 2016, btw,and others – there are some serious and interesting additions to the Multi-Streams Framework being done.

I worry a little about the ‘naturalness’ of the primeval policy soup, btw, and the notion that “the ones that are technically and financially feasible swim to the top (p.504, my emphasis). I think there is work that goes into deciding (with some limits!) of what counts as feasible. Art of the possible and all that…

As well as pointing to the need to consider multi-level games on politics, Brunner also points to the notion of policy learning –

Second, some interviewees stressed the notion of learning for explaining the policy shift towards auctioning. Both (Sabatier, 1988; Hall, 1993) argue that policy change is dependent on a process of social learning by government, business, and wider society. In understanding policy change, analysts also need to focus on elite opinion and the factors that encourage shifts in belief systems over long periods of time. Kingdon’s theory, however, lacks a distinctive consideration of learning processes. It does not pay sufficient attention to the way previous policies affect current debates and, ultimately, instrument choice. As a result, it has been criticised as being ‘‘ahistorical’’ (Weir,1992).
(Brunner, 2008:506)

This was something that Ross Garnaut was adamant on in 2011- the Australians had learned the lessons of the EUETS…

The take-home from these three papers is this –

We can trade trees, we can pretend we are going to bury carbon in saline aquifers, and we can set up markets in carbon.  None of it matters.  We didn’t act when we should have; all these are simply bargaining moves, busy work to make people think that they are helping.  We – those who reached adulthood before 1992 – have culpability. We allowed our stupid species to stay on its stupid path.  We can’t say we weren’t warned, when it all goes wrong for us (as it is already going wrong for other species, and other members of our own species.)

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