The eye of the storm : an integral perspective on sustainable development and climate change response

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In this thesis, I explore the implications of integral theory for sustainable development and climate change response. Integral theory seeks to integrate objective and subjective perspectives using a developmental orientation. It addresses issues of subjectivity that have received inadequate attention in mainstream approaches to sustainable development, while also providing theoretical grounding for the developmental aspect of sustainable development. According to integral theory, there are four main epistemological approaches to any problem: behavioural, systemic, psychological and cultural. The first is objective and individual, the second objective and collective, the third subjective and individual and the fourth subjective and collective. Development occurs within each of these realms. To test the value and implications of integral theory for sustainable development, I adopt a case study on climate change response in Australia. I begin the case study by using the four perspectives of integral theory to guide a review of the energy and climate change literature. I follow the literature review with a critical review of Australian energy and greenhouse policy, providing the starting point for development of an integral climate change response. While there is attention to subjectivity in the literature, it is not reflected in Australian policy practices. An objective perspective and an instrumental form of rationality dominate policy. In the literature review, I identify two gaps in the literature that deserve attention. The first is the role of public subsidies in creating the observed cost differential between renewable energy sources and fossil fuel energy. I examine the relative magnitude of subsidies to fossil fuels and renewable energy in the Australian energy and transport sectors and conclude that the distribution of these subsidies distorts the market in favour of fossil fuels, particularly in the transport sector. The second is the application of a developmental perspective to cultural theories of climate policy discourse. I introduce a method called meta-discourse analysis to identify consistencies and relationships across discourse descriptions by different authors and demonstrate that aspects of each discourse can be related developmentally. Drawing on the literature review, policy review and other work, I propose an integral policy response to climate change that could be applied in Australia. The policy response combines participatory integrated assessment, normative futures work, a modified version of the cooperative discourse model for public participation, an evolutionary policy orientation and several methods to promote subjective development. The proposed policy approach should be equally applicable to other sustainable development issues.
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