Article 1st of 20: “A hard Act to follow?”

For reasons that will become clear, I am planning to read 20 academic articles (that may include sections of a thesis or two) over the coming month, and to blog about them.

First up is Matthew Lockwood (2021): A hard Act to follow? The evolution and performance of UK climate governance, Environmental Politics, DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2021.1910434

This is a super-clear exposition of UK climate governance, making the argument (as per abstract) that

First, a focus on the [2008 Climate Change Act] can overlook the enduring importance of the parallel climate governance architecture provided by the European Union. Second, it is important to see UK climate governance within a wider political and institutional context, as these results of this context, especially tensions between ambition and instability, have influenced its evolution. Third, this design, and other aspects of the evolution of UK climate governance framework, have in turn had implications for the strengths and weaknesses of the framework and how it has met key governance challenges.”

It is “centrally concerned with the relationships between politics and climate institutions, both in how political conditions have shaped the emergence of climate governance, and in the effects of the resulting institutions on climate politics” (page 2) and uses the lens of historical institutionalism (short version – institutions matter, the histories of those institutions matter).

There’s lots and lots of good stuff, and a comprehensive set of references for the geeks among us.

On Brexit, Lockwood notes

“Brexit also gives rise to fears about the unravelling of climate consensus and an attack on climate policy and science from a resurgent nationalist populism (Farstad et al. 2018). However, it is argued here that this outcome is unlikely because of the underlying structural drivers of climate politics in the UK, discussed below. While these point to a degree of policy instability and caution on costs, they also imply continued ambition and partisan consensus” (page 3).

On the Climate Change Act 2008, which is such a huge attractive thing to think about and deify, Lockwood has the following observations-

“while the Act was intended to provide both strategic direction and departmental coordination, the roles of government departments in making and implementing climate policy were not displaced. Poor coordination has persisted; for example the focus in the decade following the passage of the CCA has in practice remained mainly on electricity generation at the neglect of transport and other areas (see below). The bringing together of the energy and climate change briefs together in a new Department (DECC) (later BEIS) at the time of the CCA, explicitly seen as necessary for the delivery of the carbon budgets (Lockwood 2013), may have exacerbated this problem, since the [Committee on Climate Change] has focused much of its relationship with government on DECC.” (Lockwood 2021:  10)

I realised as I read this that there were significant bits of the 30 year history I am quite weak on, and that I need to rectify this, without disappearing down (m)any rabbit holes.

Therefore I am setting up a section on this website on the topic of the history of British climate governance, and will be coming back to this article for quotes, references and perspectives.

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