Study reports public control over energy policy required to avert climate crisis

climate change iceburg

A new paper authored by York University PhD student Erin Flanagan and Professor Dennis Raphael explores the future of the environment in this time of climate crisis.

Dennis Raphael
Dennis Raphael

From Personal Responsibility to an Eco-Socialist State: Political Economy, Popular Discourses, and the Climate Crisis” was published in the Sage journal Human Geography and looks at how Canadians think about the crisis, and what can be done to move toward a more environmentally friendly future.

The study builds upon research from Flanagan’s major research paper completed as part of her MA degree in health policy and equity, at the Faculty of Health’s School of Health Policy and Management.

Based on the authors’ review of different ways of resolving the crisis, the paper concludes that averting a catastrophe will require gaining public control over energy policy and countering the power and influence of fossil-extracting industries.

“In theory, this could be accomplished through existing policy instruments, but in reality, it may require the establishment of a post-capitalist eco-socialist state,” says Raphael.

  • while what this state will look like is uncertain, certain features can be envisioned, he said. These would initially include:
  • universal access and social justice: ending energy poverty while reducing energy consumption and prioritizing the needs of communities, households, and marginalized people;
  • renewable, sustainable, and local energy: shifting to renewables by leaving fossil fuels in the ground, divesting from fossil fuels, and investing public funds in local renewable energy systems to create thriving communities;
  • public and social ownership: bringing energy production under democratic control, within new forms of public ownership by municipalities, citizens’ collectives, and workers;
  • fair play and creation of green jobs: building renewable energy through fairly paid, unionized jobs; and
  • democratic control and participation: empowering citizens and workers to participate in energy policy by democratizing governance and instituting complete transparency.

The authors state that to accomplish this, Canadians are required to understand that the current features of the country’s economic system make dealing with the climate crisis almost impossible and make the provision of health-promoting living and working conditions difficult.

Read the full paper here.