Studying industrial decarbonisation: Developing an interdisciplinary understanding of the conditions for transformation in energy-intensive natural resource-based industry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


The ambition to keep global warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, as recognised in the Paris Agreement, implies a reorientation towards low-carbon societal development and, ultimately, the decarbonisation of human societies and economies. While climate policy has been geared towards achieving set emission reduction targets, the decarbonisation of key socioeconomic sectors such as energy-intensive natural resource-based industries (ENRIs) has not yet been sufficiently addressed, neither politically nor in science. Decarbonising the ENRIs is a complex societal problem that will require structural transformation technologically as well as socially. Understanding the conditions for transformative change therefore necessitates integrated knowledge from multiple perspectives of different research fields. In this paper, we examine the potential of combining three different research fields and critically scrutinize the challenges to integration for understanding the conditions for industrial decarbonisation: energy system analysis, sustainability transition research and policy studies. We argue that these perspectives are complementary-a fundamental condition for fruitful integration-but not easily compatible since they are sometimes based on different ontological assumptions. The research fields are in themselves heterogeneous, which poses additional challenges to an integrated research approach. Drawing on experiences from a Swedish research project (GIST2050) on industrial decarbonisation, we suggest a modest approach to integrated research that could progressively develop from multidisciplinary exchange towards more integrated forms of interdisciplinarity by means of cross-disciplinary dialogue and understanding.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
  • Environmental Management
  • Human Geography


  • Climate governance, Decarbonisation, Industrial policy, Interdisciplinarity, Sustainability transformation
Original languageEnglish
Article number2129
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Mar 10
Publication categoryResearch