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Political Economy

G01 - Upping the Ante: Examining Contentious Stakeholder Politics and the Evolution of Energy Governance

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 08:45am to 10:15am | Location: SWING 108

Chair/Président/Présidente : Amy Janzwood (University of Toronto)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Christopher Gore (Ryerson University)


Session Abstract: Stakeholder politics in energy governance are changing, both across individual projects and in broader energy system transformations. Recent trends -- including increasing contention around energy infrastructure projects, new forms of local energy activism, as well as growing societal demands for a fossil fuel phase-out and a ‘just’ energy transition -- are challenging the norms and institutions which currently underpin energy systems. In this panel, we seek to answer a set of wide-ranging questions to understand the nature and dynamics of these trends. How and why are stakeholder relations changing amidst debates about energy system transformation? And what are the implications for energy policy and governance structures more broadly? The papers on this panel chart the changing relationships between corporate, state, and civil society actors with policy and theoretical implications. The politics of stakeholder relations have not been sufficiently theorized in political economy scholarship nor in energy governance literature. This panel seeks to fill this gap, while engaging with empirical cases from a number of jurisdictions and across renewable and non-renewable forms of energy.


Pathways to Keeping It in the Ground: Building a Comparative Framework: Angela Carter (University of Waterloo), Janetta McKenzie (University of Waterloo), Justine Salam (University of Waterloo)
Abstract: The deep decarbonization required to avert worst-case climate crises necessitates aggressive policy to restrain fossil fuel extraction. Taking a supply-side perspective on the global carbon problem, this paper develops a theoretical framework for identifying and comparing pathways toward successful “keep it in the ground” (KIIG) policies in developed-world oil producing states. Communities and non-governmental organizations have taken a supply-side approach for decades and it has been extended globally in recent years, as seen in widespread social mobilization against fracking and bitumen pipelines. This shift is also evident in new government bans on exploration. This paper traces the development of KIIG initiatives and research. It then synthesizes central propositions in the literature across ideational, institutional, and interest-based analyses to isolate central explanatory factors for KIIG policy implementation. With the aim of developing a framework for broader international comparisons, the paper identifies both the fundamental barriers to, as well as the most promising opportunities for, the implementation of policies aiming to curtail oil production at the point of extraction. It closes by reflecting on the possibility for fossil fuel extraction wind down in the Canadian petro-state.


Fossil Fuel Bailouts: Explaining State Support for ‘Unbankable’ Energy Projects: Kyla Tienhaara (Queen's University)
Abstract: Neoliberal economic policies have been a mainstay for major political parties in Canada and Australia since the 1980s. A fundamental tenet of neoliberalism is that governments should not engage in industrial policy but instead should ‘let the market decide’ whether a project succeeds or fails. Although this principle has never been applied consistently to the fossil fuel sector, which has always received extensive (but largely hidden) public subsidies, it has been more noticeably eschewed in recent years as a result of changing stakeholder politics. With the growth of the divestment movement, and increasing concerns about the risk of ‘stranded assets’ as countries transition to renewable energy, many private banks have shied away from financing controversial fossil fuel projects. Rather than letting these projects fail, governments in Canada and Australia have stepped in to offer highly visible public bailouts to their proponents. This paper seeks to explain why governments are willing to back projects that are perceived as ‘unbankable’ by the private sector, even in the face of overwhelming public opposition to the use of taxpayer funds. This is explored through case studies of two proposed projects: the Adani/Carmichael coal mine in Australia and the Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain pipeline in Canada.


Risk, Control, and Networks: The Evolution of Stakeholder Politics on Climate Policy Development in Australia, Canada, and Norway: Nathan Lemphers (University of Toronto)
Abstract: As climate change has become a more prominent and persistent challenge, the politics of stakeholders have likewise evolved. For instance, climate activists have now forged broad, international networks, focused on establishing more durable relationships and have placed increasing emphasis on limiting fossil fuel supply and a just transition. Despite these trends in stakeholder politics, for three major fossil fuel exporters—Australia, Canada, and Norway—there exists considerable variation in climate policy. Important contextual differences in the degree of state control over climate policy, in elite risk perceptions of climate policy and in policy networks mediate these broader changes in stakeholder politics. Examining the linkages among these factors and with national climate policy helps to explain how stakeholder politics has shaped climate policy in each of these countries and, ultimately, why all of these countries have failed to decarbonize.