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Mikael Klintman

Mikael Klintman


Mikael Klintman

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


  • Jamil Khan
  • Roger Hildingsson
  • Mikael Klintman

Summary, in English

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.


  • Miljö- och energisystem
  • Statsvetenskapliga institutionen
  • Sociologi










Lund University


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary




  • Governing transitions towards Low-Carbon Energy and Transport Systems for 2050


  • Miljöpolitik