Ecological Modernisation and the Governance of Carbon: a Critical Analysis

TitleEcological Modernisation and the Governance of Carbon: a Critical Analysis
Publication TypeOther Working Paper
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsBailey, I, Gouldson, A, Newell, P
Secondary TitleThe Governance of Clean Development Working Paper Series No. 009 and Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy Working Paper Series No. 26
KeywordsDevelopment, GCD, UEA, working papers

In this paper, we use insights derived from a critical evaluation of ecological modernisation (EM) theories to examine the origins and influence of new, market based, forms of carbon governance. Focusing on two key examples of these, namely emissions trading in Europe and the global market in offsets, we argue that EM theories can help us both to understand the processes through which the seemingly intractable problem of climate change has, over a relatively short period of time, been reframed as an opportunity to construct a new carbon economy and to anticipate some of the tensions, contradictions and limits of such an approach. We then explore the governance dimensions of these novel market mechanisms. We explore, in turn, the political drivers of these new forms of carbon governance: how they came to be ‘naturalized’ as preferred policy options. We then look at how they work: how decisions are made and which actors are enrolled in the process of governing to lend it authority, legitimacy and effectiveness. We then discuss whether, to what extent and for whom they work. We highlight a series of (un)-intended consequences that flow from these practices and modes of governing. These include accountability and legitimacy deficits, participation gaps and uneven spatial and social development. We conclude by discussing the significance of these observations both for debates on climate change and the governance of carbon and for theories of EM.



Research Areas