Producing and Consuming ‘Green Transitions': Social Movement Challenges and Strategies

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Andrew LAWRENCE, Vienna School of International Studies, Austria
This paper critically engages with ‘green transition’ literature on energy politics to map possibilities for labor movements and community empowerment. It does so both to differentiate these potential benefits from those of ‘green managerialism’ as well as to illustrate their current realization with contemporary examples. ‘Green managerialism’ argues that improved environmental outcomes promote company profits through improving market access and product differentiation, and reducing costs of capital, labor, regulation, material, energy and services (Ambec and Lanoie 2008), and may also increase aggregate employment (Koskela and Schöb 1999). Although historically, the pressure for such reforms in corporate practice comes from labor and community organizations, I argue that these groups’ interest in pursuing ‘green transition’ projects is rooted more in qualitative considerations and not primarily in those based on cost, however calculated (notwithstanding the growing consensus that wind and solar energy sources are increasingly cost-competitive with oil, coal, gas, and nuclear forms). Importantly, the mainstream leaves current relations of energy production and consumption unchallenged.

            Specifically, social movements (including, prominently, labor) have an abiding concern with promoting greater degrees of popular oversight, participation, ownership, and control of renewable and sustainable systems of resource production, distribution, and consumption. Each of these factors bears directly or indirectly on questions of scale and decentralization, particularly of energy production and distribution. Taking examples from the EU, US, and South Africa, this paper illustrates how questions of oversight, participation, etc. have been framed by movement actors, the difficulties they encounter in framing issues in overly narrow and economistic terms, and concludes with some suggestions for overcoming these difficulties.

Ambec, Stefan, and Paul Lanoie. "Does it pay to be green? A systematic overview." The Academy of Management Perspectives 22.4 (2008): 45-62.

Koskela, Erkki, and Ronnie Schöb. "Alleviating unemployment: The case for green tax reforms." European Economic Review 43.9 (1999):1723-1746.