Categories of failure in climate change mitigation policy in Australia

Joshua Newman, Brian Head

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    32 Citations (Scopus)


    Discussions of failure in public policy have been hampered by a lack of consensus on a definition of the term ‘failure’. It can be shown that arguments relating to policy failure tend to conflate forms of failure that are actually discrete, such as failure to meet objectives, claims of negative distributional outcomes and negative electoral outcomes attributed to specific policy decisions. This article attempts to unify and clarify the discourse on policy failure by presenting a multi-dimensional approach that can identify separate aspects of failure within a single policy or program. This multi-dimensional approach to policy failure is then be applied to climate change policy in Australia, in order to demonstrate how some aspects of a policy can be interpreted as failed while others can simultaneously be interpreted as successful, even by the same observer. As this example illustrates, global pronouncements of a public policy as a ‘success’ or ‘failure’ should be avoided in favour of more precise evaluations of what kind of failure occurred, and who was affected and in what ways.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)342-358
    Number of pages17
    JournalPublic Policy and Administration
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2015


    • Australia
    • climate change
    • evaluation
    • policy failure
    • policy implementation
    • policymaking


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