Blowing Hot and Cold: A Critical Analysis of Labour's Climate Policy

Project overview

One major legacy of the Labour Government was a radical transformation of climate policy between 2006 and 2010, which included a ground breaking Climate Change Act with tough emission reduction targets and five yearly carbon budgets, an innovate Low Carbon Transition Plan and progressive policy measures on renewable energy, Carbon Capture and Storage, infrastructure planning, domestic energy efficiency and support for a renaissance of nuclear power. Explaining this step change in climate policy is the puzzle that drives this project.

Before 2006 Labour climate policy was characterised by complacency and inaction. Such a significant break in policy continuity challenges dominant public policy frameworks predicting policy stability, particularly where powerful economic interests are affected. Climate change is a challenging and complex issue that requires coordinated policies that cut across sectors, appease the business community and win over a wider public wedded to carbon intensive lifestyles. By explaining  this transformation of climate policy this project will also offer wider lessons for public policy analysis and contribute to the burgeoning literature examining Labour’s performance in office, demonstrating  that an outwardly weary government that seemed to have lost its way after a decade in office was still capable of designing innovative and far-reaching policies.

The project will apply agenda-setting theories of policy change, notably the multiple streams and punctuated equilibrium frameworks. The empirical data will be drawn from policy documents, reports, press coverage and a set of elite interviews with individuals in the climate change policy network, including key actors in the Labour Government, senior civil servants, corporate leaders and NGO representatives.

Blowing Hot and Cold is led by Professor Neil Carter and is supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship

Project objectives

  • To explain the radical transformation in UK climate policy 2006-2010 using theories of policy change and agenda-setting
  • To provide the first comprehensive academic analysis of Labour's climate record
  • To contribute to the literature on the Labour Government’s third term in office