Real people or "economic processing units"?:The limited understanding of people's roles in energy and climate governance

Willis, R. (2022) Real people or "economic processing units"?:The limited understanding of people's roles in energy and climate governance. Energy Research and Social Science, 93. ISSN 2214-6296

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Meeting internationally-agreed climate goals will require the involvement of people, in various roles: as members of families and communities, as voting citizens, as employees and as consumers. Yet to date, energy and climate policy enacted by governments has tended to sidestep this issue, treating the challenge as primarily a technical or economic, rather than social, undertaking. This research examines how people have been conceptualized in energy and climate governance in the United Kingdom, through corpus analysis of key documents by government and regulatory bodies, and qualitative interviews with policy stakeholders. The research finds that governance is seen primarily as a technical or economic challenge, with little mention of people. Where people are discussed, an economic framing tends to be used. Policy stakeholders understand the problems of this approach, and argue for a more comprehensive understanding of people in governance. They see the technical and economic framing as a consequence of market-based energy policy, and centralized governance, as well as the training, processes and culture of governance organizations. Evidence from this study suggests that reforms are needed to policy and governance, including better use of social research, reforms to consultation processes, limits to marketized approaches to energy, greater deliberative engagement, and more localized energy and climate strategies. Including people is an essential part of building robust governance processes for decarbonization. Finally, this study points to the need to learn from the embedded knowledge of policy practitioners. © 2022

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Journal Article
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Energy Research and Social Science
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Export Date: 6 October 2022
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10 Oct 2022 16:15
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 11:55