Essays on the Law and Politics of Canada's Climate Change Policy

  • Author / Creator
    MacLean, Jason
  • The purpose of this thesis is to better understand the law and politics of Canada’s ongoing failure to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and transition toward socio-ecological sustainability in the post-Paris era. To do so, I attempt to peer closely into the “black box” of climate change law and policy in Canada to understand the root causes of Canada’s inaction in domestic and international context. I argue that Canadian climate law and policy inaction is the result of regulatory capture. Regulatory capture is at once the process and the effect of regulated entities and entire industries systematically redirecting regulation away from the public interest and toward the private, special interests of regulated industries and firms themselves – in respect of Canadian climate policy, the oil and gas industry and other carbon-intensive industries.

    The thesis is organized into two Parts, each comprised of three chapters. Part I examines the “carbon politics” that underlie and animate Canada’s climate and sustainability laws and policies. In these chapters I also argue for an alternative approach to climate lawmaking and policymaking in Canada; chapters one and two set the stage for a fully developed alternative model, which is set out in chapter three.

    Part II of the thesis extends the model developed in Part I by critically examining Canadian climate and sustainability laws – legislation, regulations, and jurisprudence – through the conceptual lens of carbon politics and capture. I argue for a critical legal pluralist approach that emphasizes the need for greater public participation in bottom-up, polycentric environmental governance.

    This thesis fills three critical gaps in the Canadian environmental law and policy literature. First, it systematically examines Canadian climate change and sustainability law and policy during the important initial phase (2015-2020) of the Paris Agreement, and offers an account of its ineffectiveness during this time period. Second, it adopts a dual conceptual approach that examines the normative pre-commitments and political priorities underlying Canadian climate change and sustainability laws while also attending to the legal dimensions of climate change and sustainability politics, seeking throughout to explode the false, formalist law-versus-politics dichotomy. Third, it focuses not only on the root causes of Canadian inaction and ineffectiveness in respect of climate change and sustainability, but it also prioritizes the exploration of an alternative and potentially promising approach to generating public-interest climate change and sustainability policies capable of enhancing socio-ecological resilience.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.