Your ‘Social Licence’ May Not Be Valid
An increasingly accepted term for a community’s consent to a development that affects it—“social licence”—is dangerously vague, several experts tell DeSmog.ca. But whatever it is, they say, Rachel Notley’s government can’t issue one.
The blog says the “advertised logic” of the Alberta Premier on pipeline issues as been a transactional one: “Implement an economy-wide carbon tax, attain ‘social licence,’ score a federal approval for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.”
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“Nearly every mention of carbon pricing and associated policies—a 100-megatonne oilsands [emissions] cap, coal-fired power phase-out, methane reduction target—has been accompanied by a commitment to ‘improve opportunities to get our traditional energy products to new markets,’” DeSmog notes.
But that rhetoric “represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the point of social licence, with the government assuming that moderate emissions reduction policies allows it to ignore serious concerns about Indigenous rights and international climate commitments.”
“It’s a bizarre idea,” Imre Szeman, co-director of the Petrocultures Research Cluster at the University of Alberta, told the outlet. “It’s like saying: ‘if I’m good to my neighbour, then I can engage in some petty theft at the corner store.’”
“It’s like any other buzzword,” said Jennifer Winter, director of energy and environmental policy at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. “It sounds good and you think it has meaning. But what is it? Who grants this licence?”
The question remains unanswered, but a pair of economics professors at the University of Northern British Columbia believe they know what it is not.
“It’s a real stretch for governments to claim to grant social licence [to themselves],” Fiona MacPhail and Paul Bowles told the climate blog. “Since it’s their failure to ensure that the ‘political licences’ which they grant to resource firms have legitimacy that spurred the move to social licence in the first place.”