Webinar: Technology neutrality and green industrial policy: Odd couple or unholy marriage?

Technology Neutrality is a popular and widely used policy principle, but not without its critics. Green Industrial Policy is increasingly being seen as an important component of approaches to meeting the twin challenges of environmental sustainability and economic development.

The Australian National Hydrogen Strategy and the Technology Investment Roadmap are examples of what can be understood as Green Industrial Policy (GIP) which make explicit reference to the principle tech neutrality. Given GIP explicitly or implicitly focuses on some technologies to the exclusion of others, some authors argue that applying the principle of technology neutrality to GIP is an unholy marriage. Furthermore, while tech neutrality is most effective when applied to a single, clear objective, GIP inherently has multiple goals. This webinar asks the questions: Does it ever make sense to use Technology Neutrality as a design principle for Green Industrial Policy? And if so, how do you make it work? What are the pitfalls to avoid?

This webinar argues that while application of tech neutrality in the context of GIP has challenges and dangers, ignoring the principle can also lead to inefficient and unfair outcomes due to discrimination and technology lock-in, for example.

Hence, this webinar proposes a modification of the principle and recommendations for its application in GIP. The webinar presentation will name the modified concept Conditional Technology Neutrality. According to this definition, Conditional Technology Neutrality (CTN) means that a policy does not favour any particular means of achieving the desired objective. Specifically, a policy must equally support all methods capable of achieving the objective. However, the objective itself may entail implicit technology bias, and it may also help further more than one societal goal. Key to successful marriage of CTN to GIP is its application at the level of individual objectives, rather than the GIP as a whole. Furthermore, the objective(s) to which it is applied should be clear and compatible with both environmental and economic goals of the GIP. To avoid dynamic inefficiency such as lock-in, the objective(s) need to have a clear time-frame which does not implicitly favour current dominant technologies.

About the speaker

Emma Aisbett is a Fellow at RegNet and Associate Director, Research for the Zero-Carbon Energy for the Asia-Pacific (ZCEAP) Grand Challenge. Trained in economics, environmental management and engineering, Emma collaborates with scholars across disciplines to produce quality regulatory research addressing related to globalisation and sustainable development. The current paper is in collaboration with legal and engineering scholars in the ZCEAP Grand Challenge, and has been informed by close collaboration with government and industry stakeholders.

Photo: A plant sprouting after a fire by Jack Skipworth via flickr.com, creative commons licence