Category: Scientific articles

This cateogry highlights our scientific work through summaries

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

Att nå en rättvis koldioxidbudget i svensk industri: krav på ambitiösa klimatstrategier och klimatpolitik

I en ny artikel från forskningsprogrammet FAIRTRANS granskar CCL forskare Eva Alfredsson, Mikael Karlsson och Daniel Lindvall, tillsammans med Mikael Malmaeus på IVL, klimatstrategierna hos de 15 företag i Sverige som har högst koldioxidutsläpp. Dessa företag tillhör stål-, järn-, mineral- och petrokemisk industri, samt värme och avfallshantering.

Forskarna analyserar företagens förväntade utsläpp till 2045 jämfört med deras koldioxidandel enligt två koldioxidbudgetar för Sverige. Företagens planer är ambitiösa och, om de genomförs som planerat, skulle de minska utsläppen med 70 procent till 2035. Trots en rejäl planerad minskning, överstiger utsläppen ändå vår huvudbudget som följer Parisavtalets 1,5-gradersmål, men håller sig inom den alternativa 1,7-gradersbudgeten.

Figur: Utsläppsminskning (kton) av de 15 företagen (källa: Alfredsson mfl 2024, Next Sustainability)

I en tillhörande debattartikel i Miljö och Utveckling betonar de fyra forskarna att företagens planer att minska utsläppen kan dock försenas på grund av oprövad teknik, bristande utbyggnad av förnybar energi och frånvaron av en effektiv klimatpolitik. Till och med den mindre ambitiösa 1,7-gradersbudgeten riskeras att överskridas om åtgärder fördröjs. För att lyckas krävs en snabbare utbyggnad av vindkraften och en politik som främjar energibesparing och effektivisering.

Regeringens nuvarande politik, särskilt avvecklingen av reduktionsplikten, riskerar att förhindra Sveriges förutsättningar att hålla sig inom Parisavtalets utsläppsmål. Även om de 15 stora företagen visar ambitioner att minska sina utsläpp, krävs mer för att säkerställa global klimaträttvisa och uppnå 1,5-gradersmålet. Regeringen måste stödja företagens klimatomställning istället för att ta en stor del av koldioxidbudgeten i anspråk via bakåtsträvande policyändringar.

Läs hela vetenskapliga artikeln: Alfredsson EC, Lindvall D, Karlsson M, Malmaeus MJ, Industrial climate mitigation strategies and the remaining fair carbon budget – The case of Sweden. Next Sustainability, 3, 2024

Läs debattartikeln: Karlsson, Alfredsson, Lindvall, Malmaeus, Regeringen slukar företagens koldioxidbudget, Miljö&Utveckling 2024

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

Att satsa på klimatet är en vinst för hela samhället

I den politiska debatten bortses ofta från att klimatåtgärder gynnar mer än bara klimatet, skriver Mikael Karlsson och Oskar Lindgren på UNT.

Klimatpolitiska beslut leder i regel till stora vinster för samhället utöver minskad klimatpåverkan. Minskad biltrafik och ökad cykling förbättrar folkhälsan till följd av minskade luftföroreningar. Förbättrad ekonomi, ökad sysselsättning och stärkt energisäkerhet är några andra exempel på dessa så kallade sidonyttor. Översätts dessa till monetära termer är vinsten enorm.

I en nyligen publicerad studie granskar vi hur sidonyttor av klimatpolitik bedömts i svensk politik. Vår genomgång av statliga utredningar och skattepolitiska beslut sedan 1990 visar att sidonyttor ofta utelämnas ur beräkningar. Detta får klimatpolitiken att framstå som dyrare än vad den egentligen är.

Att förbise sidonyttor leder till bristfälliga beslutsunderlag. Därför presenterar vi en rad förslag på hur den politiska beslutsprocessen kan förbättras för att möjliggöra att samhällsekonomiskt lönsamma beslut fattas. Sammantaget skulle dessa förslag synliggöra den ekonomiska vinsten av en mer ambitiös klimatpolitik. I en tid av ökad polarisering i klimatfrågan och turbulenta ekonomiska tider är det än mer viktigt att kommunicera och inkludera dessa sidonyttor i politiken, eftersom de skapar nyttor för gemene person här och nu.