Why do some countries pass legislation regulating carbon or protecting the environment while others do not?
In his new book Carbon Captured: How Business and Labor Control Climate Politics
(MIT Press, 2020), Matto Mildenberger (Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara) uses a comparative analysis of Norway, Australia, and the United States to explain differences in climate policy-making. Mildenberger concludes that despite variation in policy preferences and governmental systems, business and labor interests have infiltrated the policy-making process to prevent governments from combating climate change with legislation.
Mildenberger argues that carbon polluters capture governments through “double representation” because carbon polluters are represented regardless of what political coalition holds power. On the left, polluters are represented by labor unions who fear that increased regulations mean a decrease in jobs. On the right, polluters are represented by corporations who associate increased regulations with decreasing profits. Mildenberger asserts that the versatility of double representation makes it the most important factor in climate policy conflict across advanced economies. To support his theory, Mildenberger uses case studies of Australia, Norway, and the United States. Looking at these countries, Mildenberger describes two methods through which business and labor interests affect climate policy. One, where business or labor interests are part of a larger political coalition and use their position to participate in the writing of legislation. This results in weaker legislation. Alternatively, if business and labor interests are shut out of the political process, Mildenberger details how they mobilize the public against legislation making it less politically beneficial to take action.
Mildenberger’s comparative analysis of carbon polluters and their influence on climate policy sheds new light on policy discrepancies around the world. Additionally, Mildenberger offers a guide for future policy makers to combat the double representation of carbon polluters.
Adam Liebell-McLean assisted with this podcast.
Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship (Routledge, 2013) and, most recently, “Retreat from the Rule of Law: Locke and the Perils of Stand Your Ground” in the Journal of Politics (August 2020).