Friday, 4 October 2013

Reframing the Policy Approach: Lessons from Niki Harré

Post written by H. Griffin.

Niki Harré’s Psychology for a Better World explores how we can create a society in which governments, organisations and individuals take pride in their efforts to protect the planet and each other. In the video below, Harré summarises the key messages of her book.

In a previous post, we looked at how individual environmental action can be motivated. Harré’s work is not only relevant to individuals, but also to policy-makers. The design and implementation of policy can have a huge impact on its effectiveness. Harré highlights the importance of positivity in encouraging creativity and cooperation. Positive emotions also play a vital role in facilitating behavioural change.

Framing the way agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are addressed in a more positive manner could be very beneficial. Approximately half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions relate to agriculture. The mitigation of these emissions is particularly challenging because current mitigation options are mostly associated with farm management practices and must be implemented by tens of thousands of farmers. There are currently no ‘silver bullet’ technologies that can be imposed or implemented by agricultural processing/distribution companies on behalf of farmers. Furthermore, incorporating agriculture into the ETS – which has been the focus of public debate – risks generating large wealth transfers. Because of this, it is crucial that communication of the issue is productive in facilitating positive action.

Political debate on the issue so far has been polarised, negative and unproductive. Harré shows us that reframing the policy conversation could potentially better equip New Zealand’s agricultural sector to face the challenges ahead.

As explored in this Motu note, New Zealand can play an important role in global climate change mitigation efforts as a policy leader. Positively reframing our policy debate domestically is an important step in enabling New Zealand to play this role.

 Instead of tales of terror, we need to be telling tales of joy. We also need to be designing policy that facilitates the acknowledgement of positive behaviour of farmers. Harré suggests that making positive behaviour more visible to other farmers could have multiplying effects as people tend to copy each other.

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