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Roger Hildingsson, photo.

Roger Hildingsson


Roger Hildingsson, photo.

Exploring the politics for a low-carbon transition.


  • Jamil Khan
  • Roger Hildingsson
  • Lars J Nilsson

Summary, in English

This paper presents and discusses results from the research project LETS 2050 that studies the governance challenges of a transition to a low-carbon transport and energy system in Sweden by 2050 ( ). A key starting point of the project was that a low carbon transition is technically possible and economically feasible, while the main challenge is political. At the moment there is an on-going process both internationally and by national governments to develop road maps for a low carbon transition. While there is an emerging consensus on the need for a low carbon transition there is disagreement and uncertainty regarding how such a transition will look like. Furthermore, there is even more uncertainty on what kind of politics is needed for a successful transition. The aim of the paper is to explore how a politics for a low carbon transition might look like for Sweden. The Swedish case is analysed through the lens of two theoretical perspectives – transition studies and political ecology – which both deal with the question of system change towards sustainability. In the paper we discuss the potential role of a positive narrative about a low-carbon future and the need for a re-negotiated 'social contract' for change. The objective to avoid dangerous climate impact will in itself not be enough to establish societal consensus for the transition. Instead, in analogy with the genesis of the welfare state, a transition embracing society as a whole has to appeal to other societal interests and to all major social groups. Special attention is devoted to rethinking the role of the state in a future transition. We argue that the challenge will require a revitalization of politics and the return of the state, although not necessarily in its traditional hierarchical form. The paper is based on empirical research in Sweden and we illustrate our findings with examples from the fields of energy and transport policy. The results show that there is a lack in Swedish climate governance when it comes to supporting technology development and in institutionalising low-carbon priorities in policy making.


  • Environmental and Energy Systems Studies
  • Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies
  • Department of Political Science

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper


  • Energy Systems

Conference name

3rd International Conference on Sustainability Transitions

Conference date


Conference place

Lyngby, Denmark