Category: Analyses

This category presents deeper analyses of certain cases, e.g. political decisions

Is rationing ripe for revival?

Portrait picture Oskar Lindgren
Oskar Lindgren

On 24 May 2024 Oskar Lindgren, PhD student at CCL, presented the progression of his research at his PhD half-time seminar. Oskar is investigating the political feasibility of stringent consumer-oriented climate policies, particularly focusing on rationing as a means to reduce overconsumption. The opponent was Professor Malcolm Fairbrother from the Department of Sociology at Uppsala University.  Find the abstract of Oskar’s half-time synopsis below.

Choosing appropriate climate policy instruments is challenging and various criteria apply. While many economists tend to focus on cost-efficiency, political scientists stress the importance of considering political feasibility aspects like public acceptance. However, in contrast to intense debates about the most appropriate policy instruments, most scientists agree that widespread shifts to consumption behaviors offer an opportunity for rapid climate mitigation. The common thread running through the four papers in this thesis is their attention to the political feasibility and in particular the public acceptability of stringent consumption-oriented policies. The thesis focuses on regulatory (command-and-control) policies, and rationing in particular, due to of the lack of research on public attitudes towards them and evidence suggesting that a broad set of instruments, including regulatory, economic and informative policies, is more effective than any single regulatory response.

The findings currently coming of the papers in the thesis both corroborate, challenge and add new knowledge. Paper I (Lindgren et al., 2023) shows that there are hardly any example of climate policies steering towards absolute consumption reductions in Sweden. Surprisingly, the two survey studies (paper II (Lindgren et al., in review) and III (Lindgren et al., manuscript)) conducted across six diverse countries indicate that rationing may not be more strongly opposed than taxation by the general public. Individuals expressing concern for climate change and a strong moral obligation to accept tougher environmental regulation are more likely to accept restrictive policies like rationing. One the contrary, acceptability of rationing is also influenced by individual’s self-interest motives, as frequent car drivers and meat eaters are less likely to accept the instrument. The findings from paper III underscore the importance of considering various dimensions of public policy attitudes when attempting to alter consumption behaviors through regulatory means and that these attitudes are likely to vary across contexts. Although more research is needed to validate these findings, they prompt climate policy scholars to pay closer attention to restrictive climate policies targeting consumption, and encourage politicians to consider value-based predispositions, climate change concern and people’s self-interest when considering the implementation of such policies. 

Paper I: Lindgren, O., Hahn, T., Karlsson, M. & Malmaeus, M. (2023). Exploring sufficiency in energy policy: insights from Sweden. Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, 19(1).

Paper II:  Lindgren, O., Elwing, E., Karlsson, M. & Jagers, S.C. Public acceptability of climate-motivated rationing. In review

Paper III:  Lindgren, O. Factors explaining public acceptability of rationing as a climate policy instrument: A cross-country survey analysis. Manuscript

Can democracy cope with climate change?

Mikael Karlsson
Daniel Lindvall

In a recently published article in Climate Policy, Daniel Lindvall and Mikael Karlsson from CCL explore the strengths and weaknesses of democracy in mitigating climate change.

Democracy put in question by greenhouse gas emissions

Democratic governments worldwide fail to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. As a result, a discussion has emerged on the capacity of democracies to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some argue that democracies are unfit to tackle challenges of climate change as democratic decision-making is restricted in time and space by the election cycles and the geographic constraints of the nation state. Interest groups and so-called ‘veto players’ have captured the policy process, while the electorate lacks scientific literacy. These claims have led a few climate scientists to suggest that democracy should be restricted or even put on hold. Others counter that the problem is not democracy as such, but rather the incapacity of existing liberal democratic institutions to channel the interests of citizens. Hence, there is a need to deepen and advance democracy.

To bring clarity to these issues, Lindvall and Karlsson reviewed 72 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters published over the last two decades. The chosen articles reported correlation analyses between indicators of democracy and climate policy performances. Their review confirms that democracies tend to generate better climate policy outputs than autocracies, in terms of adoption of policies, laws and regulations. However, they find weak empirical evidence for an association between democratic development and CO2 emission reductions.

Corruption and income inequalities foster carbon intense economic growth

A reason for the unconvincing performance of democracies is the correlation between economic growth and democratization. Most studies suggest that citizens can use democracy to alleviate the carbon impact of growth. However, this conclusion is only significant in high-income countries with low-corruption. In developing countries with rapid growth, democratic qualities do not seem to have any noteworthy effect on the reduction of growth-generated emissions. A major quest for humanity is thus to find solutions to combat poverty and in parallel advance and sustain human freedom, without carbon-intensive economic development.

Income inequality is another factor that can generate both higher emissions and undermine the capacity of democracy to deliver effective climate polices. Citizens in countries with high levels of income inequality tend to oppose emission reduction policies. They believe that costs for such measures will be unfairly distributed. Furthermore, high income earners have extremely carbon-intensive lifestyles and may be unwilling to support policies that would restrain their lifestyle.

Fossil fuel interests can weaken climate policy performance

A third factor explaining the underperformance of democracies is institutional capacity and corruption. Democracies suffering from corruption and weak state institutions can present ambitious climate policies. However, they tend to implement such policies poorly. The article highlights in this context that corruption and policy capture are often caused by fossil fuel interests, symptoms associated with the so-called ‘rentier effects’. Fossil fuel extraction tend accordingly to negatively influence both institutional capacity, democratic qualities and climate policy performance.

Synergy of renewable technologies and democracy has potential

Lindvall and Karlsson conclude accordingly that with deployment of renewable energy solutions, economic activities can increasingly be disconnected from fossil fuel dependence. This reduces the political influence of the fossil fuel industry. This process could also enhance the capacity of democracies to accelerate the energy transition and reduce emission levels. Policies aiming at combating corruption and accomplishing a fairer wealth distribution, could also help to unleash the transformative capacity of democracy towards a low-carbon future.

Shop in Burkina Faso selling photovoltaic panels. Picture by Wegmann – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

None of the studies identified in the review provides any evidence that would suggest that autocratic regimes perform better than democracies. To conclude, the insufficient climate policy performance of present democracies should rather be seen as an argument to vitalize and strengthen democracy than to restrict it.

The article was developed as a part of the Formas funded research project Wicked Problem Governance and the Formas and Mistra funded research project Fairtrans.

Read the full article here:

Lindvall D and Karlsson M  Exploring the democracy-climate nexus: a review of correlations between democracy and climate policy performance. Climate Policy 2023

Study exploring municipalities on the frontline of climate action

Daniel Lindvall

What motivates urban climate leaders? Daniel Lindvall, senior researcher in the Climate Change Leadership unit, provides answers to that question in a recent article published in the International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development.  


Cities are often described as frontrunners in the transition to a low-carbon society. Cities are more progressive and perceptive than national governments, and when they act together, in networks such as the C40, they can influence policymaking on both national and global levels. This notion of urban leadership contests the conventional description of the climate crises as a problem of collective action, and confirms the theories of Elinor Ostrom, and the approach of polycentric governance.

What drives urban climate policies?

While the description of urban climate leadership is attractive, it has also been criticised for being overly idealistic. Cities are often reliant on regulations or funding of national governments, and the climate ambitions of different cities differ substantially. Certain cities are progressive, prioritising climate action, but others are lagging behind. The question is thus what motivates urban climate leaders?

To identify different factors motivating urban climate policies, interviews were made with local politicians and civil servants in five Swedish municipalities that have been top-ranked in the environment policy index Miljöbarometern, and three ranked as less ambitious.

Political consensus is key for climate action

The study demonstrates that political consensus among, and willingness of, the local political leadership is a key factor for progressive climate actions. The most progressive cities have over the years been governed by both left-, liberal-, and conservative-leaning parties, often in coalition with the green party, but the political makeup of the local government was not considered to be as decisive as political consensus. In line with previous research, pioneering moves by individual ambitious politicians or civil servants have been important for initiating transformative policies, however with the adoption of national and EU policies, local climate policies are becoming increasingly institutionalised. This institutionalisation of climate policies makes municipalities less of an independent climate actor, while national and subnational policies have become more important for driving cities forward.

Barriers for citizen involvement in urban climate leadership

The pressure of local business community with high climate ambitions and concerned voters were also considered to be important. Several cities had actively tried to involve citizens; however, the study shows that there are normative, administrative, and technocratic barriers for the inclusion of citizens in the local policymaking process. Most of the interviewees stated, on the other hand, that the engagement and direct involvement of urban residents has not had any significant impact on local climate policies.

Few of the18 interviewees (eight civil servants and ten politicians) claimed that community engagement and pressure from the electorate had any decisive influence on the policymaking process.

Resources and instruments for successful urban climate action

The most important driver for local climate policies, according to several of the interviewees, was the institutional capacities of the municipalities, such as an independent local administration with adequate resources and competences to adopt strategies, action plans, and targets, as well as instruments for progress evaluations. Such instruments could ensure long-term policy stability and enable systematic emission reductions. Networks of cities, setting common emission reduction targets and sharing experience and knowledge, are also relevant to push action forward.

Read more

Lindvall, D. What motivates urban climate leaders? A study of urban climate governance in eight Swedish municipalities. International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development 15 (1) 2023

Betraktelser från det nationella klimatmötet

Naghmeh Nasiritousi

Den 1 januari annonserade regeringen att den skulle bjuda in till ett nationellt klimatmöte för att diskutera hur Sverige ska nå nettonollutsläpp. Mötet sades vara en del av en förankringsprocess av den klimathandlingsplan som regeringen ska presentera i höst. Mötet ägde rum den 16 juni 2023 med ca 200 deltagare. Hur gick mötet till och vad var resultaten? Det svarar forskare Naghmeh Nasiritousi på som var på plats vid klimatmötet.

Klimatmötets upplägg

Den som förväntade sig att mötet skulle utspela sig i dialogform blev nog besviken. Mötet bestod av anföranden från statsministern, energi- och näringsministern, och klimat- och miljöministern, samt fyra panelsamtal som handlade om resan mot nettonollutsläpp till 2045. De inbjudna paneldeltagarna representerade mestadels näringslivet. Den mycket kunniga publiken som bestod av politiker, näringslivsrepresentanter, forskare, och några få representanter från fack och civilsamhället, fick bidra till att bredda perspektiven med några få snabba inlägg efter varje panelsamtal. Ungdomar och andra miljöorganisationer som inte hade bjudits in protesterade utanför hotellet där mötet hölls.

Demonstrationer utanför hotellet där Klimatmötet ägde rum
Ungdomar och miljöorganisationer protesterade utanför lokalerna för Klimatmötet

Vad diskuterades? 

Trots att vi bjudits in till ett nationellt klimatmöte var det ett samtal om grön industriell utveckling vi fick bevittna. Ulf Kristersson började med att förklara att EU och näringslivet är två hjältar i den gröna omställningen då de bidrar till grön marknadsekonomi. Han betonade vikten av tydliga, gemensamma och långsiktiga spelregler för att säkerställa internationell konkurrenskraft. Han nämnde möjligheterna med en ambitiös och effektiv klimatomställning, där omställningen är av nationellt svenskt intresse för ekonomi, säkerhet och miljö.

Ulf Kristersson vid Klimatmötet
Statsminister Ulf Kristersson vid Klimatmötet

Den första panelen belyste vikten av EU:s Fit-for-55-paket som är ett politiskt ramverk för EU:s medlemsländer för att snabba på klimatomställningen. Budskapet var att världen ställer om för att förverkliga Parisavtalet och då gäller det att kunna bidra till framtidens lösningar – den globala konkurrensen i framtiden är grön. Det diskuterades om risk för protektionism när länder börjar tävla med varandra att leverera utsläppsminskningar. Vikten av regelverk som ger rätt förutsättningar för omställningen lyftes flera gånger.

Den andra panelen leddes av Svante Axelsson som presenterade Fossilfritt Sveriges arbete med färdplaner för industrins omställning. Här efterlystes en folklig berättelse för klimatomställningen. Det fanns även en önskan om att målkonflikter som kan uppstå vid en samhällsomvandling diskuteras. Eller som en deltagare sade: ”politiken måste bestämma sig och peka ut riktningen och hålla i och hålla ut”. Politikens roll som möjliggörare återkom flera gånger.

De två andra panelerna behandlade olika sektorers utmaningar och möjligheter i omställningen. Vikten av rätt kompetensförsörjning och att hållbarhetsaspekter bör integreras i alla utbildningar lyftes, samt vikten av hållbar materialförsörjning och cirkulära system. Hållbarhet ses som ett sätt att risksäkra företag för framtiden, men för att se till att aktörer ställer om krävs nya samarbeten och rätta styrmedel noterade flera deltagare. Ulf Kristersson avslutade mötet med att säga att staten och kapitalet har en enorm potential i omställningen.

Viktiga samtalsämnen fattades vid klimatmötet

Innehållsmässigt var samtalen inget nytt om man varit med på Fossilfritt Sveriges tidigare konferenser. Systemperspektiv och samtal om hur klimatomställningen kan leda till synergier med andra hållbarhetsmål var tyvärr inte ämnen som diskuterades. Victor Galaz från Stockholm Resilience Center sammanfattade bra i en twittertråd olika viktiga samtalsämnen som saknades från programmet.

Trots att statsministern och statsråden hänvisade till klimatfrågan som en ödesfråga och en överlevnadsfråga och påminde om brådskan med klimatomställning, fick vi inga besked om vad som ska finnas med i klimathandlingsplanen förutom ökad fossilfri elproduktion. Inga nya initiativ eller idéer presenterades, utan budskapet var att mer av allt behövs. Inte heller presenterades någon vision om den fossilfria framtiden, bara att mindre utsläpp går hand i hand med växande ekonomi, välstånd och demokrati.

Från vänster till höger: Klimat- och Miljöminister Romina Pourmokhtari,  Statsminister Ulf Kristersson och Energi- och näringsminister Ebba Busch vid Klimatmötet.
Från vänster till höger: Klimat- och Miljöminister Romina Pourmokhtari, Statsminister Ulf Kristersson och Energi- och näringsminister Ebba Busch.

Vart är Sveriges klimatpolitik på väg? 

Ulf Kristersson sade att det behövs tydliga mål och tydliga krav på aktörer. Men den enda forskaren som hade bjudits in till panelsamtalen, nationalekonomen John Hassler, hävdade att det var dags att skrota de svenska klimatmålen i ljuset av EU:s klimatpaket. Flera åhörare protesterade mot detta eftersom det behövs snabba utsläppsminskningar i närtid, och för näringslivet spelar 2030-målet en stor roll för tydlighet och långsiktighet i klimatomställningen. EU ska dessutom snart börja förhandla om ett 2040-mål och där skulle politiken behöva skärpas ytterligare i ljuset av EU:s klimatpolitiska råds första rapport som släpptes dagen innan det nationella klimatmötet. Det skulle därför av både legitimitetsskäl och måluppfyllelseskäl vara konstigt att i detta läge skrota de svenska klimatmålen. Snarare behövs en skärpning för att ligga i linje med att uppfylla sin del av Parisavtalet.

Samtidigt ökar genomförandegapet då regeringens politik ser ut att öka utsläppen. Detta trots att statsråden framhävde Sveriges gynnsamma utgångsläge jämfört med andra länder.  Allt prat om att vi behöver öka farten rimmade tyvärr illa med vad som görs i praktiken. Att Statsministern är tydlig med att klimatomställningen är en nationell angelägenhet och att det är bråttom är bra, men räcker inte när det inte fylls med innehåll. Det är som att konstatera att det blåser upp till storm och säga att man behöver ro i hamn så snabbt som möjligt, men sedan bara använda sig av en åra, och dessutom tveka att använda sjökort och kompass.

Min slutsats av mötet är att det var en missad chans att faktiskt diskutera hur vi ska nå våra klimatmål och hur omställningen ska förankras i samhället. I stället blev det ett snävt fokus på näringslivet, vars röster redan hörts genom Fossilfritt Sverige. Att näringslivet spelar en stor och viktig roll i omställningen är självklart. Varför regeringen hittills inte mött upp deras krav på tydlighet och långsiktighet i klimatpolitiken är däremot svårare att förstå och tyder på SD:s starka inflytande.

Vikten av klimatledarskap

Det positiva med klimatmötet var att det är tydligt att stora delar av näringslivet stöttar en ambitiös klimatpolitik. Näringslivet noterade att omställningen tagit fart runt om i världen. Många efterfrågade starkt politiskt ledarskap som förser aktörer med långsiktiga och stabila regler och incitament att förhålla sig till. Det fanns därför en stor önskan om politisk vilja att visa klimatledarskap.

I höst presenteras inte bara klimathandlingsplanen. Det är även första gången som Parisavtalets globala översyn sker. Parisavtalets måluppfyllelse bygger på att alla länder håller det de lovat och utsläppsminskningar i närtid är av stor vikt för att lyckas med detta. Att aktivt öka utsläppen när klimatförändringarna accelererar är därför högst allvarligt. EU har kommit en bit på vägen för att komma överens om åtgärder för att minska utsläppen. Men många av dessa åtgärder kommer endast få genomslag om några år och mer nationella politik kommer att behövas för att få ned utsläppen. Sverige har därför en fortsatt viktig roll att arbeta för högre ambition i EU och globalt. Om det nationella klimatmötet lyckas mobilisera aktörer i samhället för en snabbare omställning så kan den ses som en ljuspunkt. Framtida möten bör satsa på ett helhetsgrepp och bredda perspektiven för att få till dialog på riktigt.

Naghmeh Nasiritousi, forskare vid Utrikespolitiska institutet och vid CCL, Uppsala universitet

Konsumtionskorridorer för ett gott liv inom munkens gränser

Ett blogginlägg skrivet av Eva Alfredsson, forskare vid CCL

I stormens öga är det lätt att tappa perspektivet och bli lite närsynt. Vi befinner oss mitt i en klimat- och hållbarhetskris men också i en utvecklingsfas där forskning och samhällsplanerare utforskar lösningar.

Ett av många tecken på denna omställning är alla de nya ord och begrepp som föds för att beskriva den nya tiden. En del kommer att ha virvlat förbi, andra är här för att stanna.

Den 5 maj skrev Oskar Lindgren om begreppet Sufficiency och den konferens om detta som han just deltagit i.

Begreppet konsumtionskorridorer 

Ett närbesläktat begrepp är Konsumtionskorridorer. Begreppet syftar till att identifiera vad som krävs för att uppnå ett hållbart välbefinnande inom ekologiskt hållbara gränser med djup hänsyn till global rättvisa. Att bo i konsumtionskorridorer är en representation av vardagen där människor lever inom gränser, så att alla människor – nu och i framtiden – kan få tillgång till det som behövs för att leva ett bra liv (Sahakian et al 2021).

Begreppet är ett resultat av ett fyrårigt större forskningsprogram i Tyskland om hållbar konsumtion och som resulterade i ett antal slutsatser varav begreppet konsumtionskorridorer var ett. Begreppet introducerades genom artikeln av Di Giulio & Fuchs (2014) men vidareutvecklades sedan av en grupp forskare på en årlig träff, ”March Munster Meeting” som ledde fram till boken ”Consumption corridors: Living a good life within sustainable limits” (Fuchs et al 2021)

Ett begrepp i tiden

Konsumtionskorridorer operationaliserar begreppen planetära gränser (Rockström et al 2009) och ”munkekonomin” (Raworth, 2012; Raworth, 2017) utifrån ett konsumtionsperspektiv (Figur 1).

Ett syfte är att använda det för att identifiera kriterier för hållbar konsumtion. Korridorerna definieras av en minimumstandard för vad som krävs för att leva ett gott liv och en maximumstandard som sätter en gräns för hur stor konsumtionen av naturresurser och sociala resurser kan vara utan att riskera att de ekologiska gränserna överskrids (Di Giulio & Fuchs 2014).

Figur 1: En konceptuell bild av konsumtionskorridorer

Policy/styrmedel som styr mot hållbara korridorer

Styrmedel och regler som både har ett tak och ett golv finns redan men inte för konsumtionen. Kör vi bil finns det tex en gräns för hur långsamt och snabbt vi får köra på en allmän väg.

Oftare har dock miljölagstiftningen bara ett tak för hur stora utsläppen får vara. Att utforma policy och styrmedel som både tar hänsyn till golv och tak kräver ett nytt tänk.

En annan skillnad är att konventionella miljöstyrmedel primärt syftar till att undvika skada. Konsumtionskorridorer syftar till att utforma politik som optimerar välbefinnande och säkerställer att basala behov uppfylls.

Utmaningar med begreppet

Begreppet konsumtionskorridorer är relativt enkelt att ta till sig konceptuellt. Att konkret definiera korridorer är desto svårare. Likaså att omvandla dem till policy eller att själv tillämpa dem i ens eget liv är dock långt ifrån trivialt. Redan 2014 identifierades utmaningar såsom att det finns många överlappande korridorer beroende på vilka ekologiska och sociala kriterier som används (Figur 2). Andra invändningar är hur konsumtionskorridorer fungerar i ett pluralistiskt samhälle med olika livsstilar, att staten inte bör begränsa människors friheter, utmaningar kopplade till hur kriterier sätts, att det saknas acceptans etc. Motargumenten är i linje med andra regler och begränsningar som finns i samhället – att den enskildes rätt inte är oinskränkt utan ska vägas mot potentiell påverka på andra.

Figur 2: Konsumtionskorridorer varierar beroende på vilka kriterier som används för att definiera dem. Källa: Di Giulio & Fuchs, 2014

Vilken är din konsumtionskorridor?

Vad krävs för att du ska kunna leva ett gott liv? Och vilka begränsningar skulle du kunna tänka dig utan att det skulle påverka din livskvalitet negativt? Under vilka förutsättningar skulle du kunna acceptera styrmedel som styr mot hållbara konsumtionskorridorer? Bör politiken utforma styrmedel som styr mot hållbara konsumtionskorridorer? Är begreppet här för att stanna eller kommer det virvla förbi och ersättas av andra.


Eva Alfredsson

Tack – Jag vill tacka Sylvia Lorek som är en av de forskare som utvecklat begreppet Konsumtionskorridorer och som jag, Eva Alfredsson, fått intervjua inför detta blogginlägg.



Di Giulio A., Fuchs D., (2014). Sustainable Consumption Corridors: Concept, Objections and Responses. Gaia 23/S1 (2014): 184-192.

Fuchs D., Sahakian M., Gumbert T., Giulio A. D., Maniates M., Lorek S. & Graf A. (2021). Consumption Corridors: Living a Good Life within Sustainable Limits (1st ed.). Routledge.

Raworth K. 2012. A safe and Just Space for Humanity: can We Live Within the Dooughnut. Oxfam Policy and Practice: Climate Change and Resilience 8 (1): 1-26.

Raworth K. 2017. Doughnut Economics: seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. London: RH Business Books.

Rockström J., Steffen K., Noone Å., Persson F., Chaplin E., Lambin T., Lenton et al 2009. A Safe Operating Space for Humanity. Nature 461 (7263): 472-475. Doi: 10.1038/461472a.

Sahakian M., Fuchs D., Lorek S. & Di Giulio, A. (2021). Advancing the concept of consumption corridors and exploring its implications. Sustainability : Science, Practice, & Policy, 17(1), 305–315.

In final week of COP27, progress rests on ‘loss and damage’

As ever, the annual climate summit of the Conference of the Parties (COP) has centered on a few and highly conflictual issues. Most notably, loss and damage, and the financing of such, is for the first time included in the formal negotiations and highly advocated by low-income countries. Moving onto the final week of COP27, observers report that negotiations are moving ahead too slowly and too little, and that several knots need to be untied.

This year’s COP meeting in Sharm-El Sheikh in Egypt started per usual with heads of states convening for the World Leaders Summit. Joe Biden, encouraged by the midterm election results which soothed worries of US climate policy drawbacks, announced a new plan to cut methane emissions and supported the “Early Warnings for All Action Plan” drafted by the World Meteorological Organization. The plan aims at establishing warning signals for extreme weather and climate-related events, especially for the most vulnerable countries. French President Emmanuel Macron strongly emphasized the need for climate justice considerations in his speech and that “loss and damage” righteously should be discussed during the coming two weeks.

Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, President of this year’s host country Egypt, has named this the “Implementation Summit”. He urged all parties to center their efforts towards implementing the rules agreed upon last year in COP26 in Glasgow.

Leading up to the summit, discussions were expected to concern financing and the previously precluded concept of “loss and damage”, as well as clean energy developments and climate adaptation. As expected, both formal negotiations and informal discussions have centered around these issues. 

Money talks

Financing has been a cornerstone and stumbling block in the climate negotiations since the Paris Agreement in 2015. The failure to deliver the annual $100 billion by 2020, agreed upon in Copenhagen 2009, has come into light as poorer countries are increasingly devastated by extreme climate catastrophes. Such as the one in Pakistan earlier this year, leaving over 20 million people in need of humanitarian aid. The World Bank headed by president Malpass – who have been accused of climate denialism by former Vice President Al Gore – has come under increasing fire for insufficient climate financing as well as continued financial support to fossil fuel projects. 

A partial success concerning climate finance from the first week was the tentative support for the “Bridgetown Agenda”, proposed by Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley. The agenda seeks to reform the international financial system to ensure financial flows to low-income countries. It received support from French President Emmanuel Macron, with Germany and the UK tentatively supporting the idea. The Bretton Woods financial system managed by the World Bank and IMF is, according to Mottley, insufficiently structured to allow poorer countries to adapt to increasing climate-induced extreme weather events. With poorer countries being charged with substantially higher interest rates than the rich, Mottley argued that poorer countries should receive concessional lending, but also that discussions must include oil and gas companies, which in recent months have seen unprecedented windfall profits. “How do companies make $200 billion in profits in the last three months and do not expect to contribute $0.10 on every $1 of profit to a loss and damage fund?” she said. Success of the Bridgetown Agenda does, however, rely heavily on the support of the G7 countries who historically been reluctant to adopt concessional lending and debt cancellation policies.

US Climate Envoy John Kerry announced a plan to marshal investments in renewables in developing countries through a framework for carbon credits. The plan, dubbed the “Energy Transition Accelerator”, would allow private companies to gain carbon credits by investing in projects in developing countries. The initiative has not landed well amongst developing countries. Critics argue that another voluntary carbon market will neither instigate necessary deep emission reductions in richer countries nor ensure any additional funding – that would happen anyway – to clean energy developments.  

Rich countries criticized for preventing loss and damage mechanism

The most contentious – but previously precluded from formal COP negotiations – issue is the financing of loss and damage arising from climate change calamities. Although discussions within the UNFCCC have been ongoing since COP19 with the establishment of the “Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage”, strengthened at COP25 with the Santiago Network and with the Glasgow Dialogue at COP26, progress has been slow. Securing hands-on financing is not expected in Egypt, but emphasis is directed towards settling on the mechanisms of such funding. One week into the negotiations, however, a few countries have pledged to provide loss and damage money. Scotland broke the ice, followed by Denmark, Germany, Belgium Austria and New Zealand. More countries are expected to follow suit and pledge to the loss and damage fund in the second week of the summit, but sums are still far from adequate. Concerning the loss and damage mechanism, progress is even slower. Rich countries, especially the G7, have been accused of distracting from establishing a mechanism by proposing the alternative Global Shield insurance scheme, aimed at establishing a protection scheme to account for climate catastrophes. This has not landed well amongst poorer countries. It is perceived as a way of circumventing the loud calls for a loss and damage mechanism. The Global Shield insurance scheme does not include slow onset events brought about by climate change and includes only a fraction of countries in need of loss and damage money.

Demonstrations and fossil fuel delegates

A worry leading up to the summit in Egypt has concerned the role of civil society groups and activists. The Egyptian regime, with a record of human rights abuses and mass imprisonment of civil society actors, have come under critical scrutiny and commentators have warned of regressive restrictions. The currently imprisoned Egyptian human rights advocate Alaa Abd el-Fattah has become a figurehead of demonstrations and campaigns. Although attempts to raise human rights issues have been made and demonstrations have taken place, civil society organizations have been largely smothered.

If civil society action has been much curtailed during the first week, the oil and gas industry has not. With over 600 oil and gas representatives participating at the meeting, according to official registration lists, they outnumber all delegations from African countries. 

What to expect from the final week of negotiations

Moving onto the second week, informal discussions will center around a few topics that traditionally fall outside the scope of the COP summits, beginning with water scarcity and gender issues on Monday. On Tuesday, attention will be directed towards the role of civil society. Discussions on Wednesday will raise to the fore biodiversity issues, paving way for the UN Biodiversity (COP15) starting on 7 December in Canada, ending with “solutions day” on Thursday where prospects for novel solutions such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and hydrogen centers on stage. 

Turning to the formal negotiations, government ministers have replaced government leaders in the pursuit of untying the knots from the first week. The most pressing issue being the loss and damage funding, and whether the funding mechanism or the insurance scheme proposed by the G7 countries will prevail. How these negotiations end will much likely define whether COP27 will be seen as a step forward or not, especially concerning the contested issue of accountability.

A conference draft of formal agreements is expected on Wednesday, but a final draft is not expected until the end of the week. As last year’s COP focused on keeping the 1.5C target alive, a year later, that ambition looks even bleaker. In the run-up to the negotiations several reports concluded that the target is slipping away. That it is politically unfeasible to keep the 1.5C target alive and that there is “no longer any credible pathway” to achieving it. The last-minute calamities and weakened commitments in Glasgow made Alok Sharma, President of COP27, tearfully claim that the 1.5C target was, albeit barely, kept alive. Egypt’s COP27 President Sameh Shoukry will face a similar task. 

Winter is coming and so is energy sufficiency?

In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, gas and energy prices have soared to dramatically high levels. Hoping for a mild winter but preparing for the worst, Europe is now considering energy conservation and rationing policies. Perhaps time has come for the important but mostly forgotten climate solution: energy sufficiency.

The ongoing energy crisis has uncovered the European dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia supplied more than 40% of the EU’s total gas consumption as well as 27% of oil imports. This share is shrinking quickly as Russia has turned down the flow into the European energy system. As a response to this, the EU and its Member States have adopted radical measures to safeguard energy supply and avoid economic losses.

Energy sufficiency measures are taken as winter is approaching
As winter is approaching, different measures are taken across Europe to save energy.

EU plans to reduce energy use drastically

On 14 September, the EU Commission proposed the REPowerEU plan to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels before 2030. The plan includes amongst other things an update of the energy efficiency target to 14,5% (the earlier target was raised from 9 to 13 percent as late as in May earlier this year). Only ten days later, the Commission proposed an “emergency plan” which sets out to reduce electricity use in the EU by 10 percent until March 2023. It also mandates an obligation to reduce electricity use by at least 5 percent during peak hours and a temporary “solidarity contribution” on excess profits from energy producers. EU Member States are also incentivized to undertake voluntary energy and gas savings. The EU climate commissioner Frans Timmermans states:

“Demand reduction is fundamental to the overall success of these measures: it lowers energy bills, ends Putin’s ability to weaponize his energy resources, reduces emissions and helps rebalance the energy market. A cap on outsize revenues will bring solidarity from energy companies with abnormally high profits towards their struggling customers.”

Several European governments are following suit

The French government is planning to cut total energy use by 10% and impose energy rationing as a last resort. The country has launched a program of sobriété (sufficiency) including restrictions on indoor temperature in public buildings. As winter approaches, president Macron has stated that sacrifices by the French people is necessary.

Germany, where gas makes up 27 percent of the energy mix and of which 55 percent was imported from Russia before the invasion, have also proposed several energy-saving measures, including limitations on temperature in public buildings. Private companies are encouraged to do the same.

Italy, importing 40% of their gas from Russia, is preparing an emergency energy-saving plan including amongst other things restrictions on domestic radiation, street lighting and opening hours for restaurants and shops.

In Spain, the parliament approved a decree in the beginning of August to limit air conditioning and heating in public and commercial buildings including shopping centers, cinemas, rail stations and airports.

In Sweden, the government has assigned state authorities to undertake measures to reduce electricity use until April 2023. Beyond this, the political response to the energy crisis has been weak. Instead, the debate running up to the national elections in September saw a revived focus on nuclear power. This captured not only the energy but also the climate policy discussions.

The imperative for energy sufficiency

The current emphasis on energy savings is promising as it shines a light on an alternative, often neglected policy strategy, namely energy sufficiency. Energy sufficiency, in its simplest form, is about avoiding carbon emissions by targeting and reducing energy use. National energy policy have traditionally focused on improving energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewables, while neglecting sufficiency. But research shows that energy sufficiency is fundamental for rapid climate mitigation. In the latest IPCC report on Mitigation of climate change, demand-side mitigation strategies such as sufficiency was for the first time included. The IPCC defines the three strategies followingly:

“(i) sufficiency, which tackles the symptoms of the environmental impacts of human activities by avoiding the demand for energy and materials of the lifecycle of buildings and goods; (ii) efficiency, which tackles the symptoms of the environmental impacts of human activities by improving energy and material intensities; and (iii) the renewable pillar, which tackles the consequences of the environmental impacts of human activities by reducing carbon intensity in energy supply.”

To reduce environmental impacts from energy use, sufficiency policies should be undertaken first, followed by efficiency and consistency (Saheb, 2021). This is because sufficiency holds great potential to reduce GHG emissions rapidly.

Less is better!?

Although the scientific community emphasize sufficiency as an important climate solution, efforts steering towards energy demand reductions have been mostly ignored in policy making. This is unsurprising since energy sufficiency conflicts with current economic, political and social ideas such as economic growth, consumerism and ideas of “more is better”. But what sufficiency research shows is that less could actually be better. In terms of climate change mitigation, sufficiency policies are cheap and can reduce carbon emissions fast (Spangenberg and Lorek, 2019). In terms of wellbeing, energy sufficiency combined with better provisioning systems could actually lead to improved global health and wellbeing (O’Neill et al., 2018).

But energy sufficiency does not mean restraints for all, but mainly for affluent countries and especially for the over-consuming “super-rich” (Otto et al., 2019). This is the other side of energy sufficiency, namely to provide universal minimum levels of energy to ensure basic needs and wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries (IPCC, 2022). We live in a world constrained by ecological resources and when a majority of these resources are eaten up by wealthy countries and individuals, not much is left. At the same time we’re struggling – and currently failing – to stave of the climate crisis. Energy sufficiency responds to both of these challenges.

Person in a woolen pullover with a cup of tea
Although behavioral changes are important, energy sufficiency goes beyond individual downshifting.

Energy sufficiency policies are needed

Although individual downscaling to some extent is necessary, an orientation towards sufficiency requires that infrastructure and systems of consumption and production change, to ensure that all have access to necessary (clean) energy services. Research on energy sufficiency policies have grown exponentially in recent years. Ambitious work by scientists from a range of disciplines have developed policy packages and practices.

The suggestions laid forward by the EU Commission and European governments, such as restrictions on indoor temperature, air conditioning and business opening hours are however concrete examples of sufficiency policies. These are all effective in the short-term. But a long-term sufficiency orientation requires further, systemic measures. It requires a planned reduction of energy use. This includes policies such as the abolishment of environmentally harmful subsidies, energy taxation, infrastructure development, upper income limits and ban on advertisements for energy-intensive products, to name a few. For a full list of existing sufficiency policies, the Energy Sufficiency Policy Database is a great seed for inspiration. Such policies require that the EU Commission and EU Member States acknowledge energy sufficiency as an important lever next to efficiency and renewables. Behavioral changes and short-term measures are indeed important, but limited in our current societies which are built on unsustainable infrastructure and geared towards increasing emissions, not the reverse.

The energy crisis as an opportunity

The energy crisis is by all means a crisis. Low-income and vulnerable households are affected the most. A transition towards sufficiency should not be built on havoc, but on a planned reduction of energy use to ensure decent levels of clean energy services to all. Such a transition does not happen through radical measures in the midst of an energy crisis. But the crisis could be, if the momentum towards energy sufficiency sticks, a stepping-stone towards recognizing the importance of energy sufficiency.

This is a moment to revitalize solidarity and collective responsibility. To recognize what values such as “enoughness” and limitations means for us as individuals and society at large. The energy crisis provides a strong imperative for energy sufficiency, but further action is needed. Only then can Europe break free from its dependence on Russia, ensure energy security and do its parts in mitigating climate change.

Article written by Oskar Lindgren, research assistant in the CCL team.