On its climate change information website, the New Zealand government explains how:
An emissions trading scheme (ETS) introduces a price on greenhouse gases to provide an incentive for people to reduce emissions and enhance forest sinks. Emissions trading provides flexibility in how participants comply with their obligations, enabling a least-cost response.
There are, of course, other ways to reduce emissions, such as traditional regulatory mechanisms. Pejorative phrases such as ‘command-and-control’ are usually used in the brief moment before regulation is dismissed from consideration. Indeed, the NZ Ministry for the Environment (MfE) asserts that imposing a price on greenhouse gas emissions is advantageous because:
It harnesses the market dynamic by providing automatic incentives for firms to invest in reducing emissions and to shift to lower-emissions products and services.
It provides flexibility for firms and fosters innovation and the seeking out of least-cost emission reduction strategies.
But something rather important is being glossed over here: An ETS doesn’t provide an automatic incentive for all firms to reduce emissions.
And, it turns out, this simple observation leads to some very awkward conclusions that have not been part of the carbon trading debate.
‘Stakeholder theory’ originated in the academic literature of organisational management but it has taken a remarkably strong grip on the liberal democracies of the West.
For example, a quick search of the .govt.nz web domain shows New Zealand government ministries, departments and agencies generate a profusion of stakeholder documents. From Ministry for the Environment to the Treasury to the Human Rights Commission, from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to the Customs Department to the NZAID agency, you could easily drown in stakeholder feedback documents, policy statements, surveys, updates, reports and reviews.
The same holds for the UK and Australia (at federal and state level) too: There are stakeholder consultations, events, sessions and workshops for every group imaginable.
This is the way government now engages with citizens: carefully managed consultation rather than politicisation.
A central theme of green politics has always been the importance of the local, captured in the familiar slogan ‘think globally, act locally’. Advocates of relocalisation see “the local production of food, energy and goods and the local development of currency, governance, and culture” as the way to “strengthen local communities, improve environmental conditions and social equity.” With its focus on coping with peak oil and climate change, the Transition Towns project has a similar objective.
Greg Albo (2007) describes how these ‘eco-localist’ ideas emphasise
a host of approaches that … rest on some mix of community and cooperative economics, semi-autarchic trade, local currency systems and direct democracy in enterprises and local government. … In this vision, ecological balance is restored within decentralized communities by the need to find local solutions. (p.344)
Climate change is what is known as a ‘wicked’ problem . That’s not a street term – it is a formal academic term for problems which suffer from:
— incomplete description,
— changing parameters, and
— complex interdependencies,
to which we might add
— a limited time frame to reach solutions,
— the lack of a single authority to implement solutions, and
— our own involvement in generating both problem and solutions.
Furthermore, a solution to one part of a wicked problem can reveal or cause new aspects of the problem.