Vägval 2050: Styrningsutmaningar och förändringsstrategier för en omställning till ett kolsnålt samhälle

Research output: Book/ReportReport


Today there are climate policy targets within the EU and Sweden about limiting global warming
and drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In order to stay within the goal of a global
warming of less than 2 ºC, the industrialised countries should decrease their emissions by 80-95
% in 2050, and bring them down to zero in the longer run. Scenario studies indicate that this is
possible to achieve and the main technological alternatives are known. But rapid technical
development and large behavioural changes do not happen by themselves and the transition to a
low-carbon society is principally a political challenge which demands new ways of thinking about
societal steering and governance.
In this report a broad group of researchers from different scientific disciplines, who are active
within the research programme LETS 2050, analyse the role of governance for a low-carbon
transition. Important governance challenges and policy choices in a variety of sectors are
discussed. The overarching question is:
How can a low-carbon transition be governed effectively in ways that are acceptable for different
actors and interests and for society at large?
In the report we relate to existing Swedish scenario studies which have identified how Sweden can
reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. In nine chapters the associated governance challenges are
studied for different sectors and technologies. The topics that are studied are bioenergy, wind
power, energy efficient houses, decarbonisation of industry, freight transport, future energy
carriers in the transport sector, planning for reduced transport and the emergence of climate
reflective citizens. The time horizon of the report is 2050 and beyond which means that we
analyse political choices for a long term low-carbon transition. At the same time we focus on the
path to get there, and on what needs to be done here and now in order to move society in the
direction of the long-term goal.
Governing a low-carbon transition will require thoroughgoing policy changes at different levels.
In this report the need for changes are analysed at (i) the policy level (policy instruments,
measures, resources), (ii) the institutional level (legislation, organisational structures) and (iii) the
paradigm level (basic norms, discourses, values). In the different chapters, specific
recommendations are made regarding the need for change and the policy choices that have to be
At the policy level a recurring theme is that general policy instruments to increase the price of
carbon, through e.g. carbon taxes or emission trading (e.g. EU ETS), should be a main strategy in
a transition to a low-carbon society. These policy instruments increase the attractiveness of lowcarbon
technologies and behaviour, while they remain neutral in the sense that they do not
dictate exactly what technology or measure that should be used. However, general policy
instruments do not provide the whole solution and, for different reasons, they need to be
complemented by other instruments and measures. For successful and long-term climate
governance there is a need to improve the development and deployment of so called “second
best” policy strategies and instruments. In the report a number of specific policy instruments that
would be relevant today are discussed. For bioenergy and off-shore wind power, policy instruments
to support research, demonstration and introduction of new technologies, need to be considered.
For energy efficient buildings, a combination of stricter regulation and initiatives to foster
voluntary co-operation and technology diffusion would be an important complement to
economic incentives. Strategic public investment in infrastructure is a particularly important
measure to push the transport sector in the direction of a transition. Complementary policy
instruments can also be needed to handle the effects of a more ambitious climate policy and here
bioenergy serves as an example. An increased use of the bioenergy resource will lead to potential
conflicts with other uses (wood, food production) as well as other environmental goals
(biodiversity, sustainable forests). For this reason there is a need for a continuous development of
policy instruments and regulations to avoid the negative consequences of an increased bioenergy
This report shows that while new, purposeful policy instruments certainly are necessary, they are
not sufficient to promote and support a low-carbon transition. In many areas there is also need
for institutional changes and reforms, e.g. changes in legislation and norm systems or adjustments
in how society is organised. The lack of environmental competence and knowledge among the
actors in the building sector is identified as an important impediment to more energy efficient
buildings. Energy efficient solutions are seldom prioritised when new buildings are planned and
old buildings are renovated, and a major educational reform that covers all relevant actors would
therefore be an important measure. The large need for technological development also calls for
institutional change, which is discussed in the chapters on basic industry and on new energy
carriers in the transport sector. Two questions are critical. First, technological development and
innovation are international, or even global, processes and it is not easy to decide which role
Sweden can and should play. Second, there are major uncertainties as to which technologies will
be successful, and some investments may therefore lead to poor results. This puts requirements
on flexible governance arrangements which have the capacity to support promising technologies,
but also to change or remove support when it is no longer motivated. Technological support is
necessary in all phases of the innovation process, not only in basic research but also in diffusion
and commercialisation. In another chapter institutional measures that might strengthen the
capacity to reduce transport demand through urban and regional planning are discussed, for instance
an increased integration of transport and land-use planning and new types of network and
knowledge building. The basic goal would be reforms that reward planning measures that
contribute to increased sustainability of transport. Stricter regulation and economic incentives to
more sustainable plans are two possible measures.
The third level in the framework is also the most evasive, but nevertheless central in order to
understand the preconditions for political decisions and policy choices. Here we are dealing with
the need for changes in policy paradigms, or basic perspectives and values, which are necessary to
make policy- and institutional reforms possible in the first place. The importance of paradigms is
particularly visible in the transport sector. Simply put, there are two main strategies to reduce the
emissions of the transport sector. One is to develop new technology and make existing technology
more efficient. The other is to reduce transport volumes and increase modal shift to low carbon
transport modes. The most robust option would be to combine the two strategies and both
develop new technology and at the same time find ways to break the trend of increasing transport
volumes. In the analysis of transport and urban planning it is recognized that the transport policy
goals state that accessibility, and not mobility, should be the guiding principle. While this opens
up the possibility to plan for decreased transport demand, planning practice at all levels continues
to be dominated by a mobility paradigm, when e.g. new residential areas are planned. In two of
the chapters in the book, an analysis is made of how an accessibility paradigm could be
strengthened by an active urban and regional planning, and by the emergence of an increased
climate reflection among citizens which over time might transcend from being something
marginal to become an established norm.
In the conclusions of the report five key issues are highlighted, critically important to reflect upon
in order to develop effective governance of the transition to a low-carbon society. First, the state
needs to show stronger leadership and the on-going process on a Swedish low-carbon roadmap
could be a step in that direction. One of the most important tasks for the state is to provide
direction and establish a political vision that societal actors can agree upon. This needs to be
backed up by policy measures to steer and organise the implementation and to generate
credibility and create legitimacy for the long-term transition. There is a long tradition of policy
instruments and measures to fall back upon, which have made Sweden a pioneer in climate
policy. But for the coming transition challenge, more is needed. One area, in which the state
could become more active, is in its support to the development of new technology, both through
R&D, diffusion policies and investments in supporting infrastructure. Another measure is to
upgrade the role of planning as a steering mechanism for the transition.
Second, it is important to bear in mind that Sweden is dependent on the outside world for an
effective climate policy, not the least in relation to the EU. The dependence is however not the
same in all sectors. For wind power, bioenergy and energy efficiency in buildings, Sweden can to
a large extent decide over its own development. Here, the challenges are rather to put the right
policy instruments in place, to co-ordinate and give incentives to key actors, and to make
necessary changes in legislation and planning systems. In other areas, such as the basic industry
and transport, the international dependence is higher, due to global trends, international
competitiveness and technical development. Still there are many things that can be done
domestically to facilitate and prepare for a transition. For industry it is e.g. important to develop
visions and strategies for how emissions can be reduced while maintaining international
Third, cities and municipalities should be acknowledged as important actors for a low-carbon
transition. The municipal self-governance, not the least through the planning monopoly, gives
municipalities great possibilities to shape local climate politics. There are many positive examples
of municipalities with ambitious climate goals who implement measures beyond the expectations
of the state. It is imperative that such initiatives are encouraged and supported. Municipalities
can however play different roles and in areas such as wind power, land use planning and traffic
planning there is a tendency that municipal decisions obstruct the transition process. It is
therefore necessary to initiate a broad debate on whether the planning system is well attuned to
handle the climate challenge and how incentives for a more progressive municipal planning can
be enhanced. Another question is whether the planning monopoly can and should be reformed so
that maintained local self-governance can be combined with an increased possibility for the state
to put requirements on municipalities.
Fourth, we discuss the role of cost effectiveness as an important criteria in climate policy, e.g. in
the government assigned work on a Swedish road map carried out by the Swedish Environmental
Protection Agency. Even though cost effectiveness is important there are reasons to broaden the
view on its role in a situation with long-term and complex processes of change. We are dealing
with a goal that implies a phasing out of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and beyond. To
achieve this, emission reductions are necessary in all sectors, and in most cases change has to start
today, due to inertia in technical, legislative and norm systems. From this perspective the
question of cost effectiveness becomes less certain to resolve. Another issue concerns technical
development which is addressed in several chapters in the report. How can cost effectiveness be
assessed for investments in technical systems with large potential but whose breakthrough will
come in maybe 10-20 years from now? For successful technical development it is not enough
with R&D but an active politics of innovation and technology is also necessary. The analysis of
cost effectiveness also has to be weighed against what is politically feasible. Theoretical models
often deem carbon taxes, or similar instrument, to be the most cost effective. However, since it
can be difficult to find political acceptance for sufficiently high carbon taxes, it might be
politically motivated to try other policy options and instruments.
Finally, there is an urge to start the transition already today since these are slow processes. There
is also a window of opportunity to make significant investments in technology and infrastructure
in the coming decade or so. In times of economic recession it can be difficult to have a long term
perspective and be visionary, particularly regarding questions directly related to the economy and
welfare. But it is precisely in this situation that it can be valuable to think and act visionary. In
one chapter of the report the importance of economic cycles in climate policy is discussed. It is
likely that the present recession will be succeeded by a growth phase characterised by
entrepreneurial activity, increased wealth and rapid technical development. For the climate it is
imperative that this growth phase is driven by technologies that stimulate a transition instead of
increasing the carbon intensity of consumption and the economy as a whole. There is a window
of opportunity to change directions through investments in infrastructure and socio-technical
system change. It requires policy packages and legislative reform which creates incentives for
change and contributes to establishing a transition mind set, so that we are better prepared for the
low-carbon transition ahead of us.
The policy choices and strategies for change that we have identified in this report, point to a new
way of looking at the role of governance in climate politics. We can already discern the
emergence of a new narrative on climate politics and the transition to a low-carbon society.
Against the backdrop of faltering international climate negotiations, visions of a low-carbon
development are becoming more attractive. If such a transition storyline contributes to viewing
the climate challenge not only as a necessity, but also as an opportunity for increased welfare,
much is won. In this report we have analysed some aspects of the role of governance in such a
transition, something that needs to be explored further.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Original languageSwedish
PublisherLund University
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Publication categoryPopular science

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