Local authority responses to climate change : a discursive and cultural analysis
This thesis offers a discursive and cultural analysis of the responses of three urban local authorities in the UK to the threat of climate change, in terms of mitigating its causes rather than responding to its effects. The research is qualitative in nature and focuses on data collected through semi-structured interviews conducted at each site and in related organisations. After an examination of theoretical positions on climate change and local government, with a cultural analysis of the dominant discourses in these areas, the local authority responses to climate change are analysed at three levels. The first level of analysis concludes that there are minor differences in the responses of different authorities, explainable by contingent circumstances, e.g. differences in infrastructure and institutional specialisations at each site. The second draws out commonalities in the responses of all three authorities, employing the analytical concepts of following rituals, utilising rhetoric, and producing results, and utilising aspects of New Institutionalist organisational theory, temporal sociology, discursive analysis, rhetoric and Cultural Theory (Thompson et aI, 1990). The third level of analysis identifies culturally distinct approaches to climate change, reflective of the 'ways of life' of Cultural Theory, across the authorities, through attention to the discourses employed by respondents. The thesis concludes that authorities' responses to climate change are constrained by the dominance of a 'hierarchist' culture within authorities, and of an 'individualist' culture in broader society, leading to the suppression of conceptualisations of, and responses to, climate change which are arise from the other active 'way of life'; egalitarianism. It argues that egalitarianism offers insights and responses appropriate to 'commons' problems, and that to ensure an effective response to climate change within local authorities, there must be a promotion of egalitarian social relations and cultural biases within them.