In recent years, climate change has metamorphosed from being a scientific issue of fairly marginal political importance to one that has – depending on one’s point of view – potentially transformative and/or disruptive consequences for virtually all policy areas. Experience to date suggests that shifting societies onto a radically less carbon intensive track will require unprecedented levels of societal steering – or ‘governance’. In Europe, this implies that the entire energy system will have to be effectively decarbonised in just over a generation. The aim of this project is firstly to document and explore the conditions under which policy innovation has occurred in multi-level governance systems, taking the EU as the primary focus and then drawing comparisons with comparable systems in the USA and Australia. Secondly, it aims to relate the observed patterns of policy innovation and/or stasis to state of the art theories of public policy to identify critical factors that enable and/or constrain the kinds of significant policy changes that the scientific community claims are needed to reduce the risk of abrupt and possibly irreversible climate change. At a time when natural scientists are anxiously debating the importance of critical ‘tipping points’ in natural systems, this project will in effect explore the scope for ‘tipping’ the multi-level governance systems in large, polluting states to enable significant and enduring policy innovation for climate change governance.
Duration: October 2011 - September 2013