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Climate governance and the welfare state : a cross-national comparison Groenewegen, Tracy


This thesis explores the theoretical and empirical connection between the welfare state and national-level climate governance, drawing together the concepts of the ecological state, ecological modernization, and varieties of capitalism. It is argued that the eco-state represents the latest evolutionary phase of the modern state, though no state has achieved full eco-state status. In its nascence it has thus been layered on top of institutional structures that characterize earlier phases, namely welfare and production regimes. As a result, 'eco-state regimes' – differential degrees of eco-state development – have begun to take shape, mapping onto these two foundational regimes such that coordinated market economies with social democratic welfare states are the vanguards of ecological modernization, a discourse that dominates environmental policy arenas across the advanced capitalist world but that these particular countries have embraced with especial gusto and have the institutional and governance capacities to make a reality. It is proposed, then, that this ‘family of nations’ would exhibit comparatively strong climate governance from an ecological modernization perspective. Using available data, I assess the empirical relevance of this theoretical framework and suggest how it might be strengthened. A basic quantitative analysis of scores on the Climate Change Performance Index provides some support for the theory but the existence of two substantially discrepant cases – the United Kingdom and Finland – indicates that it is overly simplistic. I explore these two cases further in considerable depth using an interdisciplinary, comparative case study approach, which brings to light a range of influential extra-theoretical factors, including climatic, geographic, demographic, economic, political, historical, and geopolitical factors. My findings therefore highlight the importance of a broader conception of national context to a fuller understanding of variation in national-level climate governance and suggest an additional, alternative evolutionary path for countries with liberal market economies and liberal welfare states. However, the findings also call into question the possibility of a fully developed eco-state, and the likelihood of ecological modernization as a definitive solution to global climate change, in the context of globalized capitalism.

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