Deliberative participation, trust, and social learning for sustainable energy transitions (SETs): A comparative study of Japan, South Korea, and China

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    Global climate change, energy security, and post-Fukushima nuclear concerns have heightened the urgency of the transition to a more sustainable energy future. However, public opposition to new nuclear plants, “not-in-my-backyard” responses to wind farms, and consumer backlashes against smart grid technologies around the world suggest that public acceptance of energy technologies will be critically important to shaping the transition and that conventional government-led, expert-oriented policymaking is not effective. How to engage the public effectively during any transition period remains an under-researched area.

    This project aims to provide insights into the way in which new approaches of deliberative governance evolve and influence sustainable energy transitions (SETs) in Asia. Deliberative approaches – innovative forms of public participation that emphasize the empowerment of a more informed citizenry to discuss, debate, and reflect on energy issues – have the potential to facilitate the processes of SETs. These governing approaches are being increasingly adopted worldwide (including in the US, Germany, Japan, and South Korea) in order to engage the public in policymaking and to better address complex energy issues, particularly following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

    We will conduct a comparative case study of three Asian countries: Japan, South Korea and China. This study will develop a model of SETs that will help to guide comparative investigation of the variety, mechanisms, processes, and outcomes of participative and deliberative approaches to energy policymaking. We will examine two critical dimensions of these deliberative processes – trust building and social learning – and analyze their impacts on public acceptance in the transition context. We will draw on comparisons between Asian countries to identify conditions under which normative processes and outcomes of deliberative policymaking can be realized.

    The Asian perspective of this project is unique. This region has played a pivotal role in global climate change impacts and responses. In addition, Asian countries differ notably across the region and with the West in their institutions, regulations, energy profiles, stakeholder landscapes, and public controversies. A better understanding of how and the extent to which Asian countries introduce participative and deliberative practices for energy policymaking is therefore of great scholarly value and policy significance.

    This is an innovative project that adopts an interdisciplinary, multimethod research approach. We link qualitative governance analysis (in-depth, face-to-face interviews) with quantitative methodologies (three online full-scale deliberative pollings (DPs) to collect citizens’ considered views on SET scenarios). DP is an advanced public opinion research method trademarked by our collaborator institution, the Center of Deliberative Democracy (CDD) at Stanford, which modifies conventional polling by integrating deliberative practices into the polling process. Our qualitative study will investigate the deliberative interactions among citizens, governments, experts, and businesses, and will track the associated impacts in terms of whether they accelerate or impede energy transitions. Quantitative data derived from our DPs will provide insights regarding changes in, for example, people’s trust in governments before and after deliberation.

    The project’s outputs will include at least three internationally refereed papers in top journals, a special journal issue, and several policy briefs and conference/working papers. In addition, the project will strengthen an international and interdisciplinary research partnership that will support the team’s high-impact, long-term research in this emerging field.
    Effective start/end date1/10/1731/03/21

    UN Sustainable Development Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy


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