A hybrid model of diffusion: international cooperation and domestic adoption of carbon capture and storage (CCS) within the People’s Republic of China (PRC)

McAlinden, Karl J. (2022) A hybrid model of diffusion: international cooperation and domestic adoption of carbon capture and storage (CCS) within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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As a suite of emerging technologies, carbon capture and storage (CCS) holds the potential to abate huge quantities of emissions from fossil fuel sources, making it appealing to industrialised nations seeking to mitigate climate change. Holding uncertainties around its technical viability and facing competition from low-carbon energy options, there is a need to enhance global learning and increase information sharing while removing hesitations through large-scale demonstrations. As international projects ran into difficulties, we saw a sharp increase in cooperation with China, hoping the country’s unique characteristics and circumstances might facilitate accelerated deployment. Despite showing enthusiasm, China demonstrated unclear appetite for the technologies, thus frustrating international partners.

This research seeks to identify how motivated international entities can use international cooperation and communications to influence CCS development and decisions within China. It examines how the international CCS community is structured, how it functions, and how it communicates to influence CCS-related policy processes. It assesses the means and methods international parties use to cooperate, collaborate, and communicate to share information with Chinese parties about their experiences of CCS. Additionally, it seeks to better understand the motivations and behaviours of the Chinese parties engaging in CCS-related activities and what this tells us about the current and future domestic development of the technologies. Key to this investigation is to understand how international entities can employ various types of communication channels to diffuse CCS-related information that may influence Chinese decision making.

This research has advanced Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations theory. Diffusionism has long been criticised as a form of elitist colonialism where linear channels are usually used to communicate pseudo-scientific arguments in order to influence a subject community. Even Rogers holds the view of a ‘centralised’ diffusion system, with expert sources using one-way communications to diffuse an innovation as a uniform package to relatively passive acceptors. Conversely, other scholars like Donald Schön, believe in ‘decentralised’ diffusion, where innovations emerge from numerous local sources and evolve as they are diffused across horizontal networks. This research challenges both theories by putting forward the proposition of a hybrid model of diffusion, which includes both centralised and decentralised elements.

On the basis of a desktop scoping study of CCS-related projects and events, 840 Chinese stakeholders from Chinese government departments and agencies, state-owned enterprises and private industry, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and universities were identified. 16 case studies were conducted based on 71 quantitative data sets from an online Communications Survey, 40 qualitative semi-structured interviews in ten Chinese cities and secondary data.

Understanding the structure, functions and communication influences of the International CCS Community, this thesis reveals parallel sources of CCS-related information, diffusion networks that create developed-developing country partnerships, and western strategies to influence Chinese decision-making. Moving beyond traditional CCS communications studies and investigating the emergence of new communication mechanisms, it lays out the sequencing of communication channels that have different effects on China’s CCS adoption. Through providing a comprehensive qualitative assessment of China’s appetite for CCS and the prospects for domestic adoption, it recognises the need to appeal to multiple Chinese stakeholder motivations and to bring them around a common goal. Responding to others, who have called for further analysis into how soft-governance can contribute to global diffusion frameworks and mechanisms for collaboration, I consider how alternative innovation-diffusion frameworks are employed to promote information sharing and learning by doing, acknowledging the flow of knowledge through social networks.

Discovering that a hybrid model of innovation diffusion does exist, this incorporates linear and convergent communication channels. Diffusing an innovation as a uniform package that allows for reinvention, this provides opportunities for different parties to create and share information to reach a mutual understanding. As the decision making is shared between those at the top and those who may or may not wish to adopt, this holds potential to hasten the rate of adoption and accelerate technological deployment.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Cao, Cong
Wang, Jinmin
Keywords: carbon capture and storage, international diffusion, soft governance communications, innovation development, innovation decision making
Subjects: H Social sciences > HM Sociology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 68686
Depositing User: McAlinden, Karl
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2022 04:40
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2022 04:40
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/68686

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