School of Social and Political Sciences - Research Publications

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    Convergent evolution: framework climate legislation in Australia
    Christoff, P ; Eckersley, R (TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2021-09-24)
    Australia is a well-known climate laggard with a history of political conflict over climate policy and the dubious distinction of being the only country to repeal a national emissions trading scheme (ETS). This article examines the puzzle of why four subnational governments in Australia’s federation succeeded in enacting durable framework climate legislation based on a model that came to be widely regarded as ‘best-practice’. We show that in 2007 South Australia was the first jurisdiction in the world to enact framework climate legislation with a 2050 emissions reduction target and an independent expert advisory committee to provide guidance on the implementation of interim targets. We show that this local legislative innovation set off a process of political learning, policy transfer and a virtuous political competition among like-minded Labour and Labour-Green governments at the subnational level. We call this ‘convergent evolution’ insofar as the legislative innovation and diffusion over the period 2007–2015 was similar to, but occurred independently of, the UK Climate Change Act 2008 and the diffusion of this model elsewhere in Europe. Common to all cases was a strong commitment by the premier and/or the relevant minister to pursue a decarbonisation strategy via targets, and reliance on sources of advice for legislative reform that were professionally and/or politically committed to climate action rather than from vested industry groups. More generally, we argue that framework climate legislation carries lower political risks than an ETS because it does not draw attention to the upfront costs of action. The diffusion of subnational climate change legislation, accompanied by renewable energy promotion, has helped to limit the impacts of Australian national climate policy failure while also providing a springboard for renewed climate legislative momentum at the national level.
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    The Green State in Transition: Reply to Bailey, Barry and Craig
    Eckersley, R (Taylor & Francis (Routledge), 2020-01-02)
    The contributions comprising this special section are part of a more general wave of research that is revisiting and/or re-envisaging the environmental state. They do so from the perspective of critical political economy. This article provides an assessment of their respective contributions while also reflecting on how those seeking to understand the greening (or de-greening) of the state from this critical political economy perspective might extend their critical theory to ‘critical problem-solving’ in ways that are attentive to the politics of transition. To this end, I play Bailey off against Barry and Craig to illustrate how critical problem-solving might be approached.
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    Injustice, power and the limits of political solidarity
    Eckersley, R (Taylor & Francis (Routledge), 2020-01-02)
    Brooke Ackerly’s Just Responsibility provides the most significant intervention in the scholarly debates about political responsibility for global justice since Iris Marion Young’s posthumously published book Responsibility for Justice (2011). Like Young, she grapples with globally generated injustices with a focus on sweatshop labour. In sympathy with Young, she seeks to transcend a narrow focus on distributive justice and expose the less visible and more deep-seated, embedded injustices that prevent the realisation of human rights. Like Young, she is critical of a simple backward-looking liability model of responsibility that focuses on individual culpability in favour of a forward-looking approach that focuses on taking political responsibility for less visible, systemic injustices that are collectively produced. Ackerly’s and Young’s approaches are also both firmly anchored in the feminist tradition of critical, emancipatory inquiry that stands in political solidarity with those most affected by injustices, and they are interested in political transformation of injustices rather than merely the amelioration of the most harmful effects.
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    Rethinking leadership: understanding the roles of the US and China in the negotiation of the Paris Agreement
    Eckersley, R (SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD, 2020-06-11)
    The study of leadership in International Relations has followed two different paths: work on hegemony and work on different leadership types in international negotiations. Yet there is little overlap between them and no agreement on the distinctive features of leadership and what connects leaders and followers in a collective pursuit. This article critically engages with both literatures and offers a reconceptualization of leadership as a form of legitimated asymmetrical influence that is marked off from domination and performs an important social function in facilitating collective agency towards common goals in a given community. This account is then operationalised in relation to multilateral negotiations to examine and clarify the roles of the United States and China in the negotiation of the mitigation provisions of the Paris Agreement. It is shown that the US under the Obama administration performed a sustained but largely transactional leadership role in bringing the parties to an agreement while China’s role was predominantly that of a defensive co-operator but with significant moments of shared leadership with the US towards the endgame. The analysis shows that, despite growing international expectations, China, unlike the United States, did not see its role as leading the world.
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    Greening states and societies: from transitions to great transformations
    Eckersley, R (Taylor & Francis (Routledge), 2020-08-30)
    This article examines the limits and potential of the state in orchestrating sustainability transitions from the standpoint of critical theory on the green state. Two interrelated questions are posed. First, to what extent are democratic capitalist states necessarily compromised in their functional capacity to orchestrate ecological sustainability? Second, in light of this analysis, how can a theory of the green state that claims to be critical and transformative, rather than merely problem-solving, provide practical guidance to state and societal change agents in approaching the political challenges of ecological transition? A critical method for approaching these challenges is outlined, encompassing conjunctural analysis followed by situated, critical problem solving, which is geared to identifying the ‘next best transition steps’ with the greatest long-term transformational potential. The method is briefly illustrated in relation to the critical conjuncture presented by the coronavirus pandemic.