Conference Agenda

RN12_01c: Environmental Dilemmas and Paradoxes
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Nona Schulte-Römer, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Location: BS.3.23
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road


Choosing Green Energy. A Social Dilemma With a Solution

Ulf Liebe1,2, Jennifer Gewinner3, Andreas Diekmann3,4

1University of Warwick; 2University of Bern; 3ETH Zurich; 4University of Leipzig

Customers of Swiss electricity providers had a choice between „green“ and „grey“ energy. However, customers had to pay a slightly higher price for ecofriendly green power than they had to pay for grey power. There is no difference in the private utility of green or grey electricity. Hence, choosing green energy is a contribution to the collective good of a better environment. Households and businesses alike face a social dilemma with the alternatives of cooperation (green energy) or defection (grey energy). By this logic it is clearly understandable that the overwhelming majority opted for grey energy.

But there is another psychological factor to be taken into account. In previous years several utilities switched the reference category for ordering electricity from grey energy to green energy. Many studies report relatively large effects of the default category on behavior. But does the effect persist? And, even more interesting, is the default effect observable for businesses as well as for private households?

We explored default effects of energy consumption using data from two electrical suppliers. The novel aspects of our investigation are that we were able to analyze a large data set of more than 250‘000 customers and that the sample included businesses as well as private households. These data made it possible to explore the persistency or fading out of default effects. Comparison of differences as well as more refined econometric analysis showed that there is even a surprisingly large and persistent effect of a change in the context of decision making.

Beyond the Present: Managing Time Structures in Energy Policy of Poland after 1989.

Aleksandra Wagner

Jagiellonian University, Poland

“Time is not politically neutral or innocent. Temporal understanding, in other words, is implicit in all political language and constitutive of political life.”

(Coles 2014).

Energy policy- next to the economic development and technological innovation- is a prominent factor in shaping the energy transition (Cherp at al. 2018). Public policy is usually spread between past and future- it proposes some pathway from a past to a foreseen or desirable future. Among various issues, two interlinked problems of public policy are crucial for coping with the future: control and uncertainty.

If we treat the energy policy as the acts of political communication the problem of growing uncertainty is twofold- it is a consequence of changes happened in a system environment (exhausted resources, market flows, technological innovation,) but also it is produced within the system (political risks, double contingency caused by other actors’ actions, unintended consequences).

The Niklas Luhmann’ idea of temporal structures opens the new perspective on the role and significance of public policy documents. Interpreted through the lens of the potential of coping with the unknown, the public policies reduce system complexity and contingency related to the future. Thus, they are rather focused on controlling reality, than on changing it.

This paper presents the results of an in-depth analysis of documents of Energy Policy for Poland from 1990-2018. Following Luhmann’s theory, we investigated the design of governing of temporal structures in the energy policy by exploring the relations between prediction and action, futurization and defuturization, stability and change.

Co-operation and Conflict on the Canal: Hydrosocial Convivialities on the Inland Waterways

Maarja Kaaristo1, Dominic Medway1, Steven Rhoden1, Jamie Burton2, Helen Bruce3

1Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom; 2University of Manchester, United Kingdom; 3Lancaster University, United Kingdom

There are over 3,000 miles of navigable inland waterways in England and Wales, mostly managed by the Canal and River Trust. These waterways have transformed from having a transport function during the Industrial Revolution, to dereliction in the first half of the 20th century, and to leisure use in a contemporary context. The canals are linear and liminal, hydro-social places that connect urban and rural, constructed and wild, human and non-human, symbolic and material, and historic and contemporary; they are meeting places for a wide variety of groups, including boaters, anglers, cyclists, walkers, runners, and others. With people using the waterways for different and sometimes spatially conflicting purposes, such as dwelling, work, recreation, leisure and commuting and with the waterways running through (and sometimes in parallel with) distinct districts and spaces pertaining to different regulatory stakeholders and public bodies, they have also become potential places of tension. This paper will explore how different values and understandings of sharing and shared space on the canal network, as well as freedom and control, can create challenges in terms of governance and place management. Our research is a broad-based ethnographic study undertaken on the canals of England and Wales in 2015-2018, with the main methods of data collection being participant observation involving field notes and photography, and in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with canal users and key stakeholders.

Polarisations in Perceived Pathways for Sustainability: Insights from Mining Industry in Estonia

Kati Orru

University of Tartu, Estonia

The extraction industries face a number of social and regulatory challenges. The sustainability challenge is high on the agenda in extractive industries-dependent North-Eastern part of Estonia. By exploring the conflict around a limestone extraction industry development plan, it highlights the challenges characteristic to a transitioning market economy with a communist industrial past. Based on documentary analysis, expert interviews and focus groups combined with scenario testing, the paper shows how place-based, ingrained social practices and regulatory context shape the extraction controversy. The paper discusses how the conflicts in the extractive resource management are partly embedded in the path-dependencies in regulatory cultures and ingrained perceptions of extractive industries as environmentally and socially irresponsible, the roots of which stem from the Soviet period. Furthermore, opportunities for biases in the process of impact assessment and extraction permission system appear as significant sources of controversy and distrust. The paper highlights the polarisation in interest groups supported by the varying strategies of coalition building among the economic-profit driven development interests and supporters of traditional local sustainability pathways. Industry developers’ and local government representatives small and tightly coupled communities appear confronted with seemingly open social-media-empowered opposition. Paper highlights the need for addressing the diversity of and interactions between actors and other forces influencing mining development in different local contexts.