search | rss feed | my account
Big Picture Issues
Climate Change and Energy Security
In early 2004 IFF began working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to provide support in articulating the complexities involved in developing an international energy strategy. A central element in this work was the use of visual language to help represent current policy thinking in a series of knowledge maps. This work suggested policy on energy security and on climate change is informed by rather different base assumptions, which may be incompatible.
We therefore suggested that policy development across government and internationally could be enhanced by a better articulation of a common conceptual framework for handling and making sense of the many issues, interests, data and perspectives involved in tackling energy security and climate change at the same time. Following further inter-departmental discussion it was agreed that IFF should expand on the FCO work to articulate such a framework.
The first stage involved seeking to understand how the policy process is thinking about this complex of issues at present. To do so we interviewed a range of individuals closely involved, including officials in FCO, HMT, DTI and DEFRA. This process effectively held up a mirror to the existing policy process – offering a reflection of the current policy making system in this area across government departments. The interview data was processed in a written report with significant quotes from the interviews clustered by topic. With the help of IFF Member Bob Horn, we also produced a large information mural depicting the data in vivid visual form as a series of policy labyrinths (see download below).
Those making policy in the labyrinth do not have much faith in the process or in the results. Whilst there is a broad consensus about what good outcomes and targets for 2050 should look like, there seems no way to thread a promising policy through the labyrinth of the policy process and the clouds of significant uncertainty to effective implementation.
Analysis of the interviews revealed a number of symptoms of concern. During the interviews, which were notably candid, people in the system warned us that all is not well, that they have concerns for the future, and that they are worried the policy process will not deliver what the UK needs. We saw a series of warning lights, some of them already flashing at red. We also held a feedback workshop in which we tested our representation of the policy process with some of the officials involved in the interviews. This helped us to make a diagnosis about why the existing policy process appears in danger of failing and the inadequacies of the existing conceptual framework(s) in use.
The final stage of our work in this phase of the project therefore was to start to consider whether there are other frameworks for thinking about the issues of energy security and climate change that might improve policy making and free people from the existing labyrinth. These are ideas drawn from IFF’s previous work and experience in tackling other complex issues, ways of reframing the problem space that can lead to fresh insight. A number of these ideas are included in the summary report also available for download below – including ‘three horizon thinking’, systems modelling, dilemma mapping, scenario planning, and the further use of visual analytics as in the information mural itself.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Global Opportunities Fund, Shell
Last updated: 11 Dec 2011
The initial report included promising ‘seeds’ of new approaches. We did not have the opportunity during the timescale of the project to develop these frameworks beyond an initial stage. And in order to prove their effectiveness they need to be tested in relation to specific content. We believe that introducing these (and other) thinking frameworks will generate fresh insight into how to handle the complex of energy security and climate change issues; that this will reveal new policy pathways; and eventually suggest new policy. The concluding section of the report describes how this approach might be adopted as a next step.
Documents for download
Click on the documents below to download them to your hard disk.
Climate Change and Energy Security Policy Labyrinth
This info-mural synthesises visually a number of interviews with fifteen senior UK civil servants and outside experts about the challenges of dealing effectively with the issues of energy security and climate change through to 2050. It displays the constraints expressed by the interviewees as a huge labyrinth - and the uncertainties as a huge cloud - through which policies must proceed in order to result in the possible good outcomes identified (on which there was substantial agreement). It also depicts the enabling conditions interviewees identified as supportive of achieving the good outcomes. Overall it seeks to mirror the view of the policy process offered by those operating within it.
Date: 11 Dec 2011 Size: 1.0MB
Climate Change and Energy Security Project Report
A summary report of work undertaken in 2006 for four departments of the UK government to help think through how to make better conceptual sense of the confused environment surrounding climate change and energy security as interlinking policy challenges, in the quest for promising policy pathways that go beyond the narrow area of 'win-win' or 'no regrets' policy choices.
Date: 11 Dec 2011 Size: 2.6MB