Dr. Kahane is a professor in the department of Political Science, and focuses on Democratic theory and practice, especially as these relate to the design of public dialogues and consultations; as well, what moral and political theory can (and can't) teach us about how we relate to the suffering of distant strangers. He is currently leading a Community-University Research Alliance (SSHRC), titled the "Alberta Climate Dialogue (ABCD)," which is a five-year project exploring how direct participation by citizens in problem-solving and decision-making activities can enhance our ability to respond effectively on climate issues in this province.

2011 Research Cluster Grant, Cycle One

“Whose environmental stewardship? Citizen and stakeholder roles in making Alberta climate change policy”

It is important that governments, corporations, and citizens regard themselves as stewards of the planet, but our toughest environmental problems demand more than just an ethical commitment to care for the planet; they require an understanding of whole environmental systems, and action across whole political, social and cultural systems. Climate change is a case in point—the complexity of the problem has so far stymied effective and coordinated action by governments, industries, communities, and individuals.

‘Stewardship’ demands new forms of collaboration. Our interdisciplinary, interdepartmental, research team will analyze the formal public engagement exercises that have been most influential in forming Alberta’s current climate change and energy policies, looking in particular at how organized stakeholder groups and lay citizens have been involved, the specific design of their involvement, and the relative influence of these two groups on outcomes.

Our goal is to understand how well current approaches to public engagement on climate policy in Alberta actually enable collaborative, systems-oriented problem solving. Given this analysis, our work will describe ‘deliberative democratic’ reforms to citizen and stakeholder engagement that would enhance climate change policy making, make these processes and their outcomes more publicly legitimate, and support more concerted public action.

Our research will yield scholarly publications; will be taken out to key civil service, civil society, and public engagement practitioner audiences through a collaborative workshop; and will draw on this workshop to create a practice-oriented report.