The 'Emissions Paradigm' of climate governance needs to be preceded by a 'Systems Paradigm' focused on transforming emissions-conducive systems.

Corporate and government commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and go ‘net zero’ are ubiquitous. Yet, fossil fuel consumption, production and investment continue to grow, pushing global emissions in the wrong direction. Part of the problem, Fergus argues, lies in our ‘ideas’ about climate governance. Under the dominant climate governance paradigm, emitters face pressure to disclose and reduce ‘their’ emissions. Yet, the same agents are otherwise incentivized and socialized by systems and structures to act in ways that produce emissions; emitting is still, by and large, net-beneficial and normal.

Corporate and government agents reconcile these competing pressures by finding innovative ways of appearing to have low emissions and to be reducing them, while in fact continuing to benefit from actions that fuel the climate crisis. Better, Fergus argues, to publicly instantiate a climate governance paradigm in which agents are pressured to identify and transform emissions-conducive systems. If correct, this argument has important implications for positive, critical and normative political theory—and for political practicewhich Fergus elaborates.

About the speaker

Dr Fergus Green is a Lecturer in Political Theory & Public Policy in the Department of Political Science and School of Public Policy, University College London. He works on the politics, governance and ethics of low-carbon transitions—including the “just transition” agenda, fossil fuel supply, and a new project on “popular decarbonisation”. His work has been published in leading journals, including the American Political Science Review, Global Environmental Politics, the Journal of Political Philosophy and Nature Climate Change. Fergus has also worked as a lawyer in Australia specialising in climate change, energy, environmental and water law, and as a Policy Analyst & Research Advisor to Professor Nicholas Stern at the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.  

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Event details

Event date

Tue, 19 Mar 2024, 12:30 - 1:30pm