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The discursive politics of governing transitions towards sustainability: the UK Carbon Trust

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  • Florian Kern

Abstract

A growing literature on socio-technical transitions argues that structural change in societal subsystems is necessary to move towards more sustainable societies. Proponents of policy approaches such as 'transition management' have prescribed an important role to governments in such processes, but have so far paid too little attention to the politics of this endeavour. This paper scrutinises the politics of governing the transition to more sustainable energy systems by analysing a particular policy initiative in the UK. The paper finds that discursive struggles between coalitions of actors and the institutional contexts in which these struggles take place constrain as well as enable new policy initiatives. Policy prescriptions of 'transition management' thus need to take into account particular institutional contexts and need to be tied to dominant or emerging discourses to be successful.

Suggested Citation

  • Florian Kern, 2012. "The discursive politics of governing transitions towards sustainability: the UK Carbon Trust," International Journal of Sustainable Development, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 15(1/2), pages 90-106.
  • Handle: RePEc:ids:ijsusd:v:15:y:2012:i:1/2:p:90-106
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Smith, Adrian & Stirling, Andy & Berkhout, Frans, 2005. "The governance of sustainable socio-technical transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, pages 1491-1510.
    2. Harriet Bulkeley, 2000. "Discourse coalitions and the Australian climate change policy network," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 18(6), pages 727-748, December.
    3. Kern, Florian & Smith, Adrian, 2008. "Restructuring energy systems for sustainability? Energy transition policy in the Netherlands," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(11), pages 4093-4103, November.
    4. Helm, Dieter, 2002. "Energy policy: security of supply, sustainability and competition," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 173-184, February.
    5. Hisschemoller, Matthijs & Bode, Ries & van de Kerkhof, Marleen, 2006. "What governs the transition to a sustainable hydrogen economy? Articulating the relationship between technologies and political institutions," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(11), pages 1227-1235, July.
    6. Florian Kern & Michael Howlett, 2009. "Implementing transition management as policy reforms: a case study of the Dutch energy sector," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 42(4), pages 391-408, November.
    7. Jan-Peter Voß & Adrian Smith & John Grin, 2009. "Designing long-term policy: rethinking transition management," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 42(4), pages 275-302, November.
    8. Foxon, T.J. & Pearson, P.J.G., 2007. "Towards improved policy processes for promoting innovation in renewable electricity technologies in the UK," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 1539-1550, March.
    9. Charlie Jeffery, 2000. "Sub-National Mobilization and European Integration: Does it Make any Difference?," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(1), pages 1-23, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Phil Johnstone & Andy Stirling, 2015. "Comparing Nuclear Power Trajectories inGermany And the UK: From ‘Regimes’ to ‘Democracies’ in Sociotechnical Transitions and Discontinuities," SPRU Working Paper Series 2015-18, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
    2. Rosenbloom, Daniel & Berton, Harris & Meadowcroft, James, 2016. "Framing the sun: A discursive approach to understanding multi-dimensional interactions within socio-technical transitions through the case of solar electricity in Ontario, Canada," Research Policy, Elsevier, pages 1275-1290.

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