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Post-decisional logics of inaction: the influence of knowledge controversy in climate policy decision-making

Sharman, Amelia and Perkins, Richard (2017) Post-decisional logics of inaction: the influence of knowledge controversy in climate policy decision-making. Environment and Planning A, 49 (10). 2281 - 2299. ISSN 0308-518X

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0308518X17722786


Contestation over knowledge claims, including their legitimacy as an input to policy decision-making, does not end at the moment of policy creation. Policies continue to be made and unmade during the implementation phase. Drawing from work on knowledge controversies, and building on Puchala’s (1975) concept of post-decisional politics, we investigate the implementation of climate change policy in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. We identify politically salient post-decisional logics of inaction which have been used to justify delaying or diluting climate policy implementation in both countries. In New Zealand, knowledge controversy has had little or no influence over decision-making, with political rationales in the form of the current national economic interest and cost-based logics prevailing. Conversely, arguments emphasising scientific uncertainty have achieved political traction in the United Kingdom, creating a “fog of distrust” instrumental in draining political capital from the active implementation of climate policy. Explanatory factors such as structural economic considerations and different values placed on science as an input to policy-making are discussed, highlighting the importance of being attentive to the fluidity of knowledge controversies as they achieve salience and legitimacy according to the specificities of time and place.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 The Authors
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Grantham Research Institute
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2017 13:41
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:54
Projects: ES/K006576/1
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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