From consumers to citizens

Energy and climate policy has tended to treat the climate challenge as primarily a technical or economic, rather than social, undertaking. This research examines how people have been conceptualized in energy and climate governance in the UK. It combines corpus analysis of key documents by government and regulatory bodies, and qualitative interviews with policy stakeholders.  

The research finds that governance is seen primarily as a technical or economic challenge, with little mention of people. Where people are discussed, an economic framing tends to be used. Policy stakeholders understand the problems of this approach, and argue for a more comprehensive understanding of people in governance. They see the technical and economic framing as a consequence of market-based energy policy, and centralized governance, as well as the training, processes and culture of governance organisations.  

Evidence from this study suggests that reforms are needed to policy and governance, including better use of social research, reforms to consultation processes, limits to marketized approaches to energy, greater deliberative engagement, and more localised energy and climate strategies. Including people is an essential part of building robust governance processes for decarbonisation.  

The full study is published in the journal Energy Research & Social Science. 

A briefing covering the main findings and implications for climate policy making is here.


Photo credit: Shared Futures