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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    Australian democracy and climate politics for the long-term
    ECKERSLEY, R (Melbourne University Publishing - Mianjin Company, 2015)
    One of the great ironies in the story of modern representative democracy is that its geographic expansion in the closing decades of the twentieth century has been accompanied by a thinning out in its liberal Western heartland. The short-lived triumph of liberal democracy that followed the crumbling of the Berlin Wall has given way to a slowly building chorus of more sceptical voices, no less in Australia than elsewhere. Alongside the familiar problems of rising political inequality, declining political party membership and general political disaffection there is the creeping worry that liberal democracies may not be capable of handling the major challenges of the new millennium. The looming ecological crisis is widely recognised as one of these challenges, with climate change featuring as exhibit A.
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    National identities, international roles, and the legitimation of climate leadership: Germany and Norway compared
    Eckersley, R (ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2016-01-02)
    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) confers an obligation on developed states to lead in mitigation. This obligation challenges traditional conceptions of the modern state by calling forth a more outward looking state that is able to serve both the national and international communities in the service of global climate protection. Yet, the more skeptical theories of the ecological state suggest that climate leaders will only emerge if they can connect their climate strategy to the traditional state imperatives of economic growth or national security. How the governments of Germany and Norway, both relative climate leaders with ongoing fossil-fuel dependencies, have legitimated their climate policies and diplomacy is examined through a comparative discourse analysis. While both governments rely heavily on discourses of Green growth, they also construct national identities and international role conceptions that serve purposes beyond themselves.
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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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    Poles apart?: The social construction of responsibility for climate change in Australia and Norway
    Eckersley, R (Wiley, 2013-01-01)
    This article provides a comparative discourse analysis of the climate responsibility narratives of Australian and Norwegian political leaders during the period 2007-2012. The analysis focuses on how political leaders imagine their country's identity and role in the world and how they connect (or disconnect) these identities, roles and interests with responsibility for climate change, and with their respective energy policies. The analysis shows that the striking differences in mitigation ambition and responsibility discourses between Australia and Norway are clearly related, but cannot be reduced, to differences in their relative dependence on fossil fuel. Rather, differences in national identity and international role conception provide a far more illuminating account than a simple interest-based explanation. However, Australia and Norway are not quite so "poles apart" on their energy policies, and I briefly explore the implications of climate policy hypocrisy.
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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.
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    The Politics of Carbon Leakage and the Fairness of Border Measures
    Eckersley, R (Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2010-01-01)
    The article critically examines domestic political concerns about the competitive disadvantages and possible carbon leakage arising from the introduction of domestic emission trading legislation and the fairness of applying carbon equalization measures at the border as a response to these concerns. I argue that the border adjustment measures proposed in the emissions trading bills that have been presented to Congress amount to an evasion of the U.S.'s leadership responsibilities under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I also show how the “level commercial playing field” justification for border measures that has dominated U.S. domestic debates is narrow and lopsided because it focuses only on the competitive disadvantages and direct carbon leakage that may flow from climate regulation while ignoring general shifts in the production and consumption of emissions in the global economy, which have enabled the outsourcing of emission to developing countries. The UNFCC production-based method of emissions accounting enables Northern consumers to enjoy the benefit of cheaper imports from Southern producers and to attribute the emissions associated with this consumption to the South. I argue that it is possible to design fair border measures that address carbon leakage, are consistent with the leadership responsibilities of developed countries, do not penalize developing countries, and ensure that consumers take some responsibility for the emissions outsourced to developing countries.
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    Translating science and restoring our sense of wonder - The end of nature as a landmark
    Eckersley, R (SAGE Publications, 2005-06-01)
    Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature still stands as an exemplary case of environmental journalism in the way it translates complex scientific ideas into an accessible form and engenders a deep sense of wonder about the natural world. Nonetheless, this article suggests that McKibben’s core claim that we have reached the end of nature (as a human experience of the wild; as an independent, creative force and identity-fixing force; and as a reasonably predictable and reassuring force) is overstated and contradicted by his prescriptions for the future. If nature has come to an end and we humans have taken over nature’s role as the all-powerful force, as McKibben argues, then how can we follow his advice and choose to become nature’s creatures again? And whose idea of nature should count? McKibben appears to have mistaken decline for death and unintended human impacts for God-like control.