Climate change and the new economy

By Prof Bronwen Morgan, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies (University of Bristol Law School).*

57038b77a959739f43138d18_Issue13Spring2016As 2016 lengthens its stride, the ambivalent euphoria of the Paris agreements on climate change gives way to a sense of ‘where to from here?’ While the technicalities of the Kyoto Protocol were never easy fodder for inspiring collective action, the new terrain is arguably even more forbidding on that score. Each country will submit Nationally Determined Contributions, a welter of sector-specific plans and measures which will be assessed, monitored, analysed and reviewed by carbon management professionals via procedures still being fought over. This is, from the perspective of global climate treaty processes, a ‘bottom-up’ approach to responding to climate change.

What if, instead, we were to turn our collective attention to a very different conception of ‘bottom-up’, a grass-roots process of building a new economy as a response to climate change? Not the new economy of the tech start-up world, itself an extension of arguably over-optimistic hopes that the economy-as-usual can, with the help of science and technology, provide products or processes that will decouple growth and carbon emissions. No, the ‘new’ here is more about the way ‘economy’, ‘market’ and ‘exchange’ can be re-imagined so that they move away from the extractive processes that damage our ecology. Innovation is socio-ecological more than technological, internalising a more generative relationship to the resource base upon which production and consumption depend. (more…)