Lessons from the UK on Urgency and Legitimacy in Energy Policymaking

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Gordon MacKerron

This chapter uses the recent history of UK energy policymaking to illustrate wider themes in this book. In the face of the urgency of climate change, the central question for policymaking is how to combine radical action with strengthened legitimacy and consent. The UK case shows how it may be possible to start travelling along this difficult road, but that subsequently it is easy to over-emphasise urgency at the expense of legitimacy and thus risk overall failure.

After a brief overview of energy policymaking in the UK prior to 2000 (Section 5.1; see also Chapter 4), the focus is on the post-2000 period. Section 5.2 describes the way in which policymaking in the first few years of the century began to open up in a quite promising way, setting the scene for legitimate, radical policies to reduce GHG emissions. It then relates how processes were subsequently closed down around a revised agenda, one emphasising energy security and large-scale technologies including nuclear power. The chapter then reaches conclusions in Section 5.3 for governments seeking to take urgent, radical action to tackle climate change.

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