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Session Chair: Martin David, Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Location:PC.2.12 PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences
136 Syggrou Avenue
17671 Athens, Greece
Building: C, Level: 2.
Information Flows in the Field(s) of Japanese Energy and Environmental Politics
University of Turku, Finland
Compared to the more conventional model of Japanese politics, focusing mainly on the interplay between the dominant political parties, the bureaucracy, and the big business, academic attention directed at Japan in recent years has drastically reshaped itself. The Triple Disaster of 2011, so called 3/11 (earthquake, tsunami and the resultant radiation leak from Fukushima nuclear plant), and especially the anti-nuclear protests following it, have helped shift the focus towards more varied perspectives of Japanese society and politics, involving multiple-level actors.
This is analogous to changes more generally occurring in the field of political communication studies: representations of one-way communication have given way to multi-actor models. Global information flows, international epistemic communities as well as the participation of transnational actors have radically changed how citizens interact with—and past—their own governments. Political messages are increasingly being produced by citizens and citizen organizations.
As a host of the 1997 Kyoto COP3 conference, Japan is under treaty obligations to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions level and to take other steps related to curbing climate change. Before 3/11, Japan was envisioning the possibility of global leadership on this issue of worldwide importance and high political profile. At the same time, Japan is constantly under international pressure to engage new types of civil society organizations in political decision-making, and Japan’s NGOs also have a central role in creating and publicizing gaiatsu (pressure from the outside). As Japan now, 6 years after the Triple Disaster, is on the verge of returning back to significant use of nuclear power, energy and environmental politics are likely to remain two central and increasingly intertwined arenas for shifting patterns of political communication.
Energy Access and Decentralised Renewable Energy Technologies in the Global South: a Matter of Energy Justice?
University College London, United Kingdom
Energy access was considered not so long ago by international aid agencies and governments only as a matter of extension of the model of centralised generation of electricity to developing countries. The grid was supposed to reach even the poorest in the most remote rural areas. The goal of electricity for all via the grid has proven to be, not only unrealistic, but actually a hindrance to energy access for the poor, the model of centralised electricity generation benefitting in priority the urban middle-class. Actually, the electrification of industrial countries started with decentralised generation implemented by small local electric companies. And there is a great diversity of “clean” energy technologies to provide adapted energy services - notably thermal ones. The focus on electrification via the grid reflects a now-dated ideology.
Energy justice is a new concept which can relate to the opposition to existing relations of power which could be (or not) modified by the current “energy revolution”. But renewable energy technologies do not necessarily remove relations of dependence of marginalised communities, actually they can just displace them or substitute them with other relations of dependence; and indeed, remote communities even if given access to renewable energy technologies can be further marginalised, unless specific actions are taken to empower them. Nevertheless, recent advancements in renewable energy technologies combined with new ways of thinking energy access are currently completely changing the energy landscape in developing countries; under a number of conditions which this paper examines, the current “energy transition” could provide opportunities for local communities to have a greater role in defining a more equitable access path to energy and contribute to transform their future.
Energy cooperatives as intermediaries in the energy transition: the case of Italy in a comparative perspective
University of Trento, Italy
My contribution intends to focus on the role of socio-technical intermediation in the energy transition. The emerging literature on this issue stresses how intermediaries perform operations of 'translation' among actors and technology in order to coordinate and articulate better interaction (Bird and Barnes, 2014; Moss et al. 2010). They redefine the social organization of technological systems and help stabilize the innovation processes (Beveridge and Guy, 2009). Among energy system intermediaries civil society organizations play a crucial role. Civil society intermediaries tipically take the form of cooperatives.
Hence in the presentation, first of all I will highlight the different forms of energy cooperatives working in the Italian context as mediators between energy consumers, producers and technology and favoring in many ways their re-assemblance into one single collective entity. Sometimes, the need for re-intermediation comes from the attempt of civil society to limit the action of commercial third party actors considered outsiders to the values of sustainability, mutuality and self-management carried out by the third sector. Secondly, drawing on both empirical research on Italy energy cooperatives and literature review of European cases I will explore the institutional factors (formal and informal) explaining the main differences in the level and forms of this intermediation in Southern European countries vs. North of Europe.
What's wrong with energy efficiency?
Lancaster, United Kingdom
One proven and effective method of curbing carbon emissions is to reduce energy consumption by increasing the efficiency of things like cars, domestic appliances, heating and cooling technologies, and equipment used in industry and in construction. Flying in the face of what looks like obvious common sense, this article reviews arguments against the pursuit of energy efficiency. These draw attention to a variety of generic limitations and problems, all of which deserve more explicit recognition and discussion. Linking these critiques together I suggest that the very idea of efficiency rests on a deeply problematic, ultimately a-social interpretation of energy and that rather than being part of the solution the risk is that this conceptualisation thwarts more concerted attempts to understand the dynamics of demand or to imagine and move towards a lower carbon society. In making this case, I suggest that making space for a more fundamental engagement with demand depends on setting the efficiency agenda aside, and that this is an essential move if sociology is to have more than a marginal role in informing and invigorating energy policy.