Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 1323–1336 | Cite as

Views from above: policy entrepreneurship and climate policy change on electricity in the Canadian Arctic

  • Alexandra MallettEmail author
  • David Cherniak
Original Article


Many recognize the role of public policy in catalyzing action to address climate change. Attention has turned to theories of policy change, focusing on agents and their activities. Less clear, however, is the relationship between effective policy change and the actors, their context, and their strategies. We therefore ask: to what extent do kinds of policy actors, institutional settings, and policy entrepreneurial strategies influence policy change? Drawing from experiences in a subnational jurisdiction in the Canadian Arctic (Northwest Territories), the following findings emerged. Firstly, policy change occurred due to the efforts of a wide-ranging collective of policy actors. We further suggest that more attention focus upon the structures in which they operate. These aspects include modern treaty and devolution agreements; mechanisms that provide people with opportunities to engage within policy formulation processes; attempts at incorporating alternative viewpoints; dispersed communities; and experience with decentralized electricity. In addition, by attempting to align strategies with features unique to the region help foster policy change. These strategies included capitalizing on focusing events (e.g., low water levels affecting one of the hydro-based electricity systems in a populace with a heightened awareness of climate change); issue linking (climate change, energy security, self-reliance); fostering networks involving insiders and outsiders and in a decentralized fashion; and utilizing a promising venue (an energy charrette). In essence, a key feature of the region is that many features are in a state of flux. We posit that these open or fluid systems are ecologies in which policy entrepreneurship can possibly thrive.


Climate policy innovation Policy entrepreneurship Sustainable energy Arctic Northern policy 



We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their excellent feedback, as well as David Huitema, Elin Boasson, and Raoul Bruenen, editors of this special issue about climate policy innovations and policy entrepreneurship, and Les Pal, School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA), Carleton University, for their insights. We are indebted to the numerous individuals who provided their time and expertise through in-person discussions and interviews, our focus group session, telephone discussions, etc. Particularly, we would like to thank the rest of our team for our larger project examining alternative energy in the Canadian Arctic: Stephan Schott, Lawrence Keyte, and Vincent Dufresne. We would also like to thank Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) who provided funding for this project. POLAR staff Meaghan Bennett, Michael Brown, and Robert Cooke provided us with many insights throughout this process. We would also like to thank representatives from the Aurora Research Institute, the Arctic Energy Alliance, and Government of Northwest Territories who, in addition to sharing their time and expertise to us via discussions, provided us with the opportunity to participate in the 2014 NWT Energy Charrette. Among others, these individuals include former Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of NWT Michael Miltenberger; Jim Sparling and Wade Carpenter of MNWT; David Nightingale and Kelly Lang-Knox of DITI; Ychao Chen, Leanne Robinson, Steve Ouillet, and Louis Azzolli of AEA; Ashley Mercer of ARI; and Remi Gervais of the City of Yellowknife. We would also like to thank Jessica Wang and the staff at the Yellowknife Inn for assisting us with our focus group session in Yellowknife, NWT. The bulk of primary research from this paper comes from a broader project examining Alternative Energy in the Canadian Arctic, Commissioned by Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR). See here for larger report:


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA)Carleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Sustainable Energy Policy master’s program, School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA)Carleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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