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Title: Understanding the role of the business community in the making of UK climate policy between 1997 and 2009
Author: Strong, Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 9420
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2011
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Business activity is directly responsible for around fifty percent of UK emissions and academics and NGOs have often referred to the influence of corporate actors when trying to explain the UK government's failure to reduce emissions. Yet, surprisingly little academic research has sought to unpack the nature of the business community's role in policymaking or understand the processes and mechanisms by which business actors are able to shape climate policy. Drawing on interviews with 55 business elites, British policymakers and other key stakeholders, this thesis seeks to address these questions by providing a detailed analysis of the business community's role in the making of UK climate policy. In particular, it examines the degree of involvement which the business community has had in the policymaking process, and considers whether, and if so why, corporate actors have enjoyed a privileged position. It uses the concept of strategic selectivity and insights from work on environmental discourse to help make sense of the advantages and constraints faced by companies and business groups. Case study chapters explore the role of the CBI in climate policymaking, business actors' influence on the development of emissions trading, and Large Electricity Producers' impact on policy to decarbonise generation. While recognising that 'the business community' requires considerable disaggregation when it comes to climate change, and that cleavages between firms and sectors limit corporate influence, this thesis suggests that there is analytical purchase to the concept of a business community. Firstly, business actors have together been constrained by aspects of the prevailing UK context. Most notably, the environmental movement and sections of the media have played a crucial role in shaping the political agenda and delegitimising a reactionary corporate approach to climate change. Cross-party competition has further restricted business actors' room for manoeuvre on the issue. Secondly, companies and business groups have enjoyed similar advantages when it comes to climate policy: corporate interests have together benefited from several discursive aspects of the strategically selective setting in the UK. In particular, policymakers' preference for market-based policy solutions and their privileging of economic growth. A widespread attachment in British society to high levels of consumption and personal travel has also facilitated corporate interests politically. Business actors have also been advantaged during policymaking because they have generally been rich in material resources - information, 10 technical expertise and capital - highly valued by government. Policymakers have felt that they rely on business actors for information to make feasible and effective policy. Likewise, in order to achieve its twin objectives of emissions reductions and low carbon growth, the government has looked to companies for their ability to innovate and invest. The political dominance in the UK of a discourse of ecological modernisation has made the capacity to innovate and invest particularly important to government, and has also helped legitimise and safeguard the core objective which corporate actors share - continued business growth. This study has found that business groups and leaders have facilitated their political influence by pushing this positive win-win discourse and by adopting a constructive approach to climate policy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available