Democratic Pathways to Global Governance: Experimentalism, Markets, and Biofuel Regulation

Publication Date: 
Publication Language: 
Series Title: 
GR:EEN Working Paper Series
Working Paper Type: 

The paper provides an experimentalist critique of EU attempts to regulate biofuels according to sustainability criteria. The framework of  experimentalist governance embodies a certain type of normative value, which we associate with deliberative polyarchy, stakeholder participation, and democratic destabilization. Taken together these dimensions enable experimentalism to embody the values of epistemiccognitive problem- solving, inclusion, pressure for public justification, and accountability (e.g. through peer review). Biofuels are an interesting test case of experimentalism because regulation has emerged in precisely the unpredictable, multi-actor fashion that might favour pluralist social learning. Normative uncertainty – and therefore the potential for democratic debate - appears to be a core feature of biofuels regulation whereby the goal of  sustainability is inferred by their status as renewable, low-carbon energy. However, through our case study, we suggest that the governance of  biofuels has suffered from a pronounced disagreement over the attractiveness of biofuels, a lack of effective central sanction (even within the more ambitious EU-oriented fora), and highly variegated forms of peer review. Taken together, we argue that enthusiasm for the democratization of  economic and environmental activity within the ambit of biofuel regulation should be tempered by the fact that this regulation was itself established  as part of a market-making project. In developing this experimentalist critique of biofuel regulation, however, we also seek to envisage some  pragmatic ways forward for governance. Indeed, we identify certain democratic pathways, including the critical reform of existing practices to better  locate and defend marginal voices; to ‘join up’ experimentalist governance across issue areas; and to, more generally, respond to the complex  problem of achieving the normative goal of sustainability at the global level. In this sense, we emphasise the critical potential of experimentalism to  envisage new experiments in sustainability.

Biofuels; EU Governance; Experimentalism; Roundtables; Civil Society