Conflict over Climate Change Politics : Governmentality and Resistance to the Expansion of Heathrow Airport

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Abstract: In 2008, the so-called Climate Change Act went through the UK Parliament. The bill was a commitment to radically reduce carbon emissions. During the same period of time, a third runway was planned at the London Heathrow airport. The aim with this paper is to analyse the controversy that occurs over how the expansion of civil aviation can be connected or disconnected from the politics of climate change. The specific case of Heathrow expansion brings to the fore how certain domains and economic spheres are contested, as they become subjects for incorporation with climate change policy as a discursive practice. In focus of the study are debates in the UK Parliament, as well as contestations in the form of direct actions by the activist network “Plane Stupid”. A disparity in the debate exists between “carbon budget” and “technological enframing”: two competing programmes of government. The distinction between these programmes derives from a difference of relativising and absolutising rationalities. The parliament’s decision over Heathrow is an attempt to mitigate the conflict between conflicting policies. In the direct actions by Plane Stupid the issue is however demonstrated as a conflict, and absolute connections between the question of Heathrow and climate change are visualised. By making contestations of programmes and techniques of government, the practice of resistance relates to and utilise the productive powers of governmentality. The conflict of Heathrow touches upon dynamics of discursive modifications. The control and capacity to define the character of a problem are productive powers that are subjects for continuous negotiations, contestations and conflicts.

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