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California in the greenhouse: regional climate policies and the global environment

Corfee Morlot, J.; (2009) California in the greenhouse: regional climate policies and the global environment. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis explores how climate policy is developing at sub-national or “regional” scales of decision-making. It considers local-global connections on both the science and the politics of climate change by investigating four main research questions as they pertain to regional climate action: What triggers regional policy action on global climate change? What arguments and lines of evidence underlie the policy discourse? How do “winning” arguments gain salience? How does regional action make a difference to broader scale climate policy? The research is conducted through one in-depth case study in California. It shows that action on climate change mitigation in California is enabled in part by past action in related policy arenas of air pollution control and energy policy within a multilevel, social-practice environmental governance framework. More recently the emergences of a comprehensive policy framework is triggered by a unique policy window where a change in California’s leadership capitalised on the void of federal policy to reframe arguments for state-level action on climate change. The case study identifies two dominant policy frames leading to a third master frame or meta-narrative in the period 2004-6: i) climate change as a problem of regional environment risk; ii) mitigation policy as a “win-win” for the local economy and the environment; iii) climate change as a regional policy issue. This period represents a paradigm shift from a previous dominant framing that characterised climate change as predominantly a national rather than a state policy issue. The case study shows that today’s dominant policy frames rely upon a process of co-construction that combine insights from expert and local knowledge, thus intertwining “facts” and “ values in the policy process. “Winning arguments” or policy frames gain salience through a relatively open policy process, which permits an array of non-governmental actors -- including social movement organisations, business organisations and experts -- to operate in the outer-periphery of the policy process and generate ideas in a timely way to influence policy decisions. The research underscores the power of localising problems of global environmental change and their solutions, of taking up climate change as a regional policy issue where solutions can be tapered to reflect regional contexts and norms. It shows that there is a relatively larger scope for experimentation and social and technical innovation at regional scale, compared to broader scales of action, which can open the way for cross-scale learning and influence to emerge.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:California in the greenhouse: regional climate policies and the global environment
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Geography

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