Sustainability and Energy Politics: Ecological Modernisation by Giorel Curran

By Giorel Curran

The writer explores the fraught politics of power transitions in an age of weather switch. She does so via an ecological modernisation and company social accountability lens which she contends shapes and underpins sustainability this day. Case stories hide weather coverage, unconventional gasoline and renewable power.

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The UNFCCC and later, the Kyoto Protocol, ‘was resisted by the United States and other countries because of its attacks on the auto-petroleum economy’; and the Statement of Forest Principles ‘never mentioned the problem of deforestation in its “forest principles”’ (Foster, 2003). Nor did any of the 40 chapters of the notable policy document Agenda 21 outline the specific sustainability role that the corporate sector should play beyond its championing of a sustainable global economy (2003). As Chatterjee and Finger (1994: 116) observe: ‘The only mention of corporations in Agenda 21 was to promote their role in sustainable development.

As Dryzek (2005: 143) asks, in the face of the significant tensions that divided the green movement and the developing and developed world, ‘what could possibly combine ecological protection, economic growth, social justice, and intergenerational equity ... globally and in perpetuity’? SD claimed not only to do just this, but also to do it without having to make too many painful compromises. The promise that we could ‘have it all’ – sustainability and development – underpinned the seductive power of the concept and its ultimate embrace (2005: 143).

It was largely from this impetus that EM and CSR were born. As Dryzek (2005: 149–50) contends, ‘[p]erhaps the most successful discursive repositioning [of environmentalism] was accompanied by the corporations Sustainability Today 37 present’, particularly at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in 2002, which ‘confirmed the status of business as a major participant in sustainable development, not a source of problems to be overcome’. Furthermore, the active role that business would go on to play in the SD and environmental reform agendas ‘was solidified in partnerships involving business, governments, and NGOs, several hundred of which were established at the WSSD’ (Dryzek, 2005: 150).

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