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The Role (and Limits) of Knowledge in Policy Processes: A Case Study On The Debate And Policy Process Over The Development Of California’s Tropical Forest Standard For Existing And Emerging Cap And Trade Programs

Authors: Libby Blanchard*, University of Cambridge
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Social Geography
Keywords: climate change, climate justice, California, public political ecology, carbon offsets
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Understanding how Public Political Ecology and Critical Environmental Justice can be used to dismantle environmental racism, discrimination, and structural inequalities requires, in part, understanding the role of knowledge in environmental policy processes. While the relationship between knowledge and policy has been traditionally studied using positivist and technical rational conceptualizations, cognitive and co-productionist approaches question this positivist assumption of rationalism and consider the role of normative values, in addition to facts, as inherent factors in policymaking. These latter two approaches see knowledge—and the role of power in the control of knowledge—as significant, interdependent variables worth critical attention in policy processes.

This paper examines the role and limits of peer-reviewed evidence vs. other types of knowledge in the debate and policy process over California’s development of a tropical forest offset protocol for existing and emerging cap and trade systems.

The case study contributes to the theoretical understanding of knowledge-policy interactions and the role of engaged scholarship in the policy process by helping to understand questions such as how and why particular types of knowledge become privileged or tenacious within environmental policy processes.

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