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Industry capacity building with respect to market-based approaches to greenhouse gas reduction: U.S. and Australian perspectives

Sonneborn, Carrie (2005) Industry capacity building with respect to market-based approaches to greenhouse gas reduction: U.S. and Australian perspectives. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Fossil fuel-intensive companies are coming under increasing pressure to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). The political environment surrounding climate change and the evolution of the carbon market are complex and in a fluid state of play. Uncertainty exists with respect to government policy, greenhouse (GH) accounting standards, interaction with stakeholders and the capacity to 'commoditise' carbon emissions, making it difficult for companies to determine exactly how to build their internal capacity to deal with a shifting external situation.

In Australia and the United States in particular, companies are receiving mixed messages from government about the necessity of reducing GHGs and the role of emissions trading. While market-based approaches to GHG reduction are being promoted, the governments of both countries have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and failed to establish domestic emissions trading schemes. Finally, few companies have substantial experience in managing GHGs or in market-based approaches to GHG abatement, such as emissions trading.

This research aims to provide guidance for industry capacity building with respect to market-based approaches to GHG reduction, recognising that generally this would require significant organisational learning and change to corporate systems. The proposed Framework facilitates organisational learning that goes beyond the detection and correction of errors to questioning and modifying existing norms and procedures and, further, to reflecting on past experience and creating new strategies.

The research included participants as integral to the study, giving their 'emic' (insider) viewpoints centrality while allowing 'etic' (outsider / researcher) interpretation. Within the organisational learning literature, the approach that best describes this research is that of Action Research and Appreciative Inquiry. The principles of environmental management, cleaner production, corporate social responsibility and sustainable development inform the research. Surveys, focus groups and a literature review are employed as the data collection methods, which are compared and contrasted.

The data suggest that a 'one size fits all' approach to industry capacity building with respect to market-based approaches to GHG reduction is not optimal or possible. This is due to the differing strategic objectives, varying assessment of risk and disparate circumstances and starting points of the companies involved. Thus, rather than a prescriptive model, this research has identified and prioritised the key themes and issues that currently influence corporate capacity building. Precursors to action have been specified and a 'menu' of choices provided. Lastly, a step-by-step Framework has been proposed to build companies' capacity to participate in GHG emissions trading. It was also observed that the majority of the key themes and issues that influence companies and the preparatory actions they need to take are the same, whether a market-based system or a command-and-control system of GHG reduction is introduced.

The thesis includes some suggestions for further research in the application and evaluation of this approach with companies in the field.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering Science
Supervisor(s): UNSPECIFIED
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