The role of institutional innovations in the transition to low-carbon futures

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Deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid dangerous climatic change will require fundamental transformations of the energy and transport systems. This is an enormous challenge for society and the political system. In order to tackle this challenge, we argue that it will be necessary to develop new institutions and institutional practices that address and give priority to long-term climate policy objectives. In this paper we focus on three institutional innovations in the field of climate governance and energy system transformations that are guided by such visions. Institutional reforms at the national level in three arguably progressive cases (the Netherlands, the UK and Sweden) are studied concerning their relevance for governing transitions towards low-carbon societies. The study asks: What views on how to bring about low-carbon transitions guide the activities of the institution? What is the role of new institutions in processes of change and what institutional practices have developed so far? The cases provide examples of ways to enhance reflexivity and how a new political agenda for low-carbon futures and strategies for instigating processes of change can be institutionalized. However, when contrasted against contemporary green political thought, they seem to be bound by liberal conceptions of greening the welfare state rather than post-liberal ecologist ideals on radical green transformations. Our analysis also shows that in practice, the institutions examined tend to favor technological transitions over behavioral change and to be reliant on hierarchical authority and traditional patterns of steering to a greater extent than intended.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Energy Systems


  • low carbon governance, transitions, institutions
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch
Event2nd UNITAR/Yale Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy - Yale, United States
Duration: 2010 Sep 17 → …


Conference2nd UNITAR/Yale Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy
CountryUnited States
Period2010/09/17 → …

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