The nature of China’s climate change dilemma is well-known: Climate change is exacerbating environmental devastation in China, but expanding mitigation efforts would pose new challenges to continuing economic development. National environmental measures often face strong resistance from sub-national authorities, which are incentivized by highly stable growth and development goals. This paper applies complexity theory to China’s climate change dilemma. Key insights of complexity theory—(i) the decisive role of systemic parameter settings (rule sets or minimum specifications) in shaping system behavior and (ii) the creative capacity of non-hierarchical organization—should encourage policy responses that reset incentives and harness creativity beyond government. Several instances are examined where incentive-focused, non-hierarchical initiatives have been effective in promoting climate-friendly behaviors. They include voluntary energy efficiency commitments undertaken by corporations, partnerships between local governments, clean-tech firms and international specialists, and ‘local issue-bundling’ to enlist public support for climate change mitigation.
Over the years, this column has given me a tremendous opportunity to explore emergence and organization within a variety of different organizations. Many of them have been in the realm of social entrepreneurship and many of those dealt with my trials and tribulations around bringing my own social entrepreneurial effort, Entrepreneurs4Change, to life. During the […]