British sociologist Anthony Giddens, author of The Politics of Climate Change, speaking February 2010 at The Institute of International and European Affairs.
My main thesis is that: no matter what happens on an international level, it’s no good having agreements if you can’t implement them. … A lot of this has to be led at the national level. … We can also say that policy in the industrial nations will count for most. …
I limit myself to four main points about … national political systems (and) their interaction with business and industry:
1. We’ve got to find a way back to the politics of the long term. … You’re talking, to me, about a return to planning. Planning, of course, went out of vogue. … Planning was not effective in Soviet-style situations, and not very effective in this country either. But you can’t have a 20-30 year perspective on politics without planning in some sense. Therefore, you’ve got to find a way of producing effective policy over the long term, which will somehow cope with the fact that technological innovation is not predictable, by and large. …
We need a lot of invention and experimentation in the relationship between government and markets. To me, there is far too much emphasis placed on technology in the existing discussions of climate change. … We’re going to need innovation on the level of international relations, social innovation, political innovation – just as much as we’re going to need technological innovation.
2. We have to find a way of controlling political polarization around climate change. To me, it has nothing to do with left-right politics. … However, there is a serious danger that it does become polarized in that way.
3. We have to muster enthusiasm for change. … It’s not enough to talk in terms of avoiding catastrophe. … We’ve got have a much more positive view of what we can achieve, though developing a low-carbon economy and through having a sustainability agenda.
4. We must have, at this point, a new model of development. And that model of development must build on the discussion happening all across the world about the limits of growth, as measured by GDP. … Industrial civilization is nibbling away at the conditions of its own existence. …
We know, from the work of many economists, that increasing economic growth does not necessarily increase welfare. The aim of a political society should be to increase welfare.
I’m looking for a sort-of revitalization of political theory, at this point. My label for this – which sounds paradoxical, but isn’t – is utopian-realism. I think we have to think beyond the world in which we live at the moment. Therefore, we need a dash of utopianism in political thinking. However, since climate change is a real issue, which has to be addressed in the short as well as the longer term, it has to be grounded in real trends.