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Sustainability 2013, 5(5), 2210-2232; doi:10.3390/su5052210

¨ A Dilemma of Abundance: Governance Challenges of Reconciling Shale Gas Development and Climate Change Mitigation

School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria V8W 3R4, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 18 March 2013 / Revised: 24 April 2013 / Accepted: 28 April 2013 / Published: 14 May 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Government Policy and Sustainability)
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Shale gas proponents argue this unconventional fossil fuel offers a “bridge” towards a cleaner energy system by offsetting higher-carbon fuels such as coal. The technical feasibility of reconciling shale gas development with climate action remains contested. However, we here argue that governance challenges are both more pressing and more profound. Reconciling shale gas and climate action requires institutions capable of responding effectively to uncertainty; intervening to mandate emissions reductions and internalize costs to industry; and managing the energy system strategically towards a lower carbon future. Such policy measures prove challenging, particularly in jurisdictions that stand to benefit economically from unconventional fuels. We illustrate this dilemma through a case study of shale gas development in British Columbia, Canada, a global leader on climate policy that is nonetheless struggling to manage gas development for mitigation. The BC case is indicative of the constraints jurisdictions face both to reconcile gas development and climate action, and to manage the industry adequately to achieve social licence and minimize resistance. More broadly, the case attests to the magnitude of change required to transform our energy systems to mitigate climate change.
Keywords: climate change; shale gas; energy systems; regulation; governance climate change; shale gas; energy systems; regulation; governance
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Stephenson, E.; Shaw, K. ¨ A Dilemma of Abundance: Governance Challenges of Reconciling Shale Gas Development and Climate Change Mitigation. Sustainability 2013, 5, 2210-2232.

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