Article 20 of 20 – “The green state and industrial decarbonnisation”

Another excellent read in what is CLEARLY the best journal, or at least, the one with the most brilliant, charismatic and downright amazing social media editor…

Hildingsson, R., Annica Kronsell & Jamil Khan (2019) The green state and industrial decarbonnisation, Environmental Politics, 28:5, 909-928, DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2018.1488484  

And the abstract is

This is absolutely FULL of the kind of insights I need to absorb. I will be re-reading this more than once, not because it was badly written or obscure – quite the opposite in fact – but because it is so full of nuggets and pearls.

Their methodology is bang on the money-

“Our Swedish case study consists of two complementary studies: an integrated analysis of the Swedish ENRI sectors since the 1970s, in order to understand the preconditions for decarbonisation (published in Johansson and Nilsson 2017); and an interview-based study of current climate governance of ENRIs (Hildingsson et al. 2017)…. We conducted the interviews in autumn 2016 with 30 representatives from: ENRI companies (7), ENRI sector organisations (6), public agencies (7), national politicians (4) and civil society organisations (6). Interviews were semi-structured around themes such as the importance of ENRI for Sweden, the characteristics of climate governance, actor relations, possibilities to decarbonise the industry and the need for industrial decarbonisation strategies. We transcribed the interviews, coded and analysed using the qualitative software NVivo. In autumn 2017 we invited respondents to a workshop at which we presented and discussed preliminary results in a focus group format, which we summarised in a report (Hildingsson et al. 2017).” (Hildingsson et al. 2019: 9xx) 

They have so many useful conceptual tools that are new to me (I know half of nothing about industrial decarbonisation right now). ENRIs make sense as a tool-

“In the new politics of climate change, a key challenge for the green state is to decarbonise the economy and achieve deep cuts of carbon emissions in the energy and transport sectors in order to keep global warming well below 2°C. This implies reductions in the large share of carbon emissions by the Energy-intensive Natural Resource-based Industry (ENRI), which extracts and processes basic materials for other industries. Halting production of basic materials is not a likely option as steel, metals, wood pulp, cement, chemicals and plastics will likely be necessary in future decarbonised societies.” (Hildingsson et al. 2019: 909)

There is heaps of useful conceptual framing

“Three issues are central to the capacity of green states to instigate and govern industrial transformation. First, there is a tension between ecological concerns and the economic imperative of the state (Eckersley 2004, Bäckstrand and Kronsell 2015)….. Second, early green state theory did not conceptualise the process of transition from the capitalist state to the green state. Besides addressing the need for value changes emanating from civil society and the critical role of deliberative democratic institutions to make states responsive to ecological concerns (Eckersley 2004), it has not sufficiently theorised other processes of change. Hence, it has been necessary to incorporate theories on transition and system change in order to advance green state theory (Bäckstrand and Kronsell 2015)….Third, the role of the state in supporting green innovation, technology development and industrial renewal is crucial but has attracted little attention in green state literature. Technological innovation systems studies highlight the different phases of technological development and how structural and contextual factors can support innovation and the emergence of new technologies (Bergek et al. 2015). There is potential for innovative industries that embrace ecological concerns to establish lead markets and encourage decarbonisation globally through such markets.” (Hildingsson et al. 2019: 911-12) 

And as others have noted, we have to get beyond “incumbents always and only resist”

“Some transition scholars have developed a more nuanced view on the role of incumbents showing how they can both obstruct and support sustainability innovations, for example, by capturing transition processes to align them with their own interests (Smink 2015, Späth et al. 2016). Scholars need to consider further the potential of incumbent regime actors to act as change agents and what dilemmas and challenges this entails.” (Hildingsson et al. 2019: 912) 

Findings aplenty,

Green state theory emphasises the role of the state in advancing ecological concerns and environmental policies. Our study of ENRIs in Sweden shows that a green decarbonising state also needs to engage in industrial policy and dialogue with industrial actors, in order to establish a shared vision on industrial decarbonisation and create the right conditions for companies to engage in transition processes. In doing this, however, there is always the risk that state-industry relations maintain the status quo instead of developing new low-carbon pathways; to stay on the track to decarbonisation, stringent and clear climate objectives can provide direction.” (Hildingsson et al. 2019: 9xx) 

[The age-old dilemma – if you aren’t talking to the big beasts, you’re irrelevant. If you are, they may Smaug you). But I will save that for another time… This is a “must-re-read” and I need to look at these references and other work of these authors…

And with this, I’ve completed reading 20 articles in “33” days (actually managed it in 17 or so). Gonna take a couple of days off, but this – an article a day – may well be sustainable, and sensible. Watch this space…


Ahman, M. and Nilsson, L.J., 2015. Decarbonising industry in the EU: climate, trade and industrial policy strategies. In: C. Dupont and S. Oberthür, eds. Decarbonisation in the EU: internal policies and external strategies. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 92–114.

Åhman, M., Nilsson, L.J., and Johansson, B., 2017. Global climate policy and deep decarbonization of energy-intensive industries. Climate Policy, 17 (5), 634–649. doi:10.1080/14693062.2016.1167009

Bäckstrand, K. and Kronsell, A., eds., 2015. Rethinking the green state: environ[1]mental governance towards climate and sustainability transitions. London: Routledge

Bergek, A., et al., 2015. Technological innovation systems in contexts: conceptualizing contextual structures and interaction dynamics. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 16, 51–64. doi:10.1016/j.eist.2015.07.003

Geels, F., 2014. Regime resistance against low-carbon transitions: introducing politics and power into the multi-level perspective. Theory, Culture and Society, 31 (5), 21–40. doi:10.1177/0263276414531627

Hildingsson, R. and Khan, J., 2015. Towards a decarbonised green state? The politics of low-carbon governance in Sweden. In: A. Kronsell and K. Bäckstrand, eds. Rethinking the green state: environmental governance towards climate and sustainability transitions. London: Routledge, 156–173.

Hildingsson, R., Khan, J., and Kronsell, A., 2017. Interview study of conditions for zero emissions in Swedish basic industry. Lund: Lund University. Available from:

Johansson and Nilsson 2017) – in Swedish!                

Späth, P., Rohracher, H., and von Radecki, A., 2016. Incumbent actors as niche agents: the German car industry and the taming of the “Stuttgart E-mobility region”. Sustainability, 8 (3), 252. doi:10.3390/su8030252          

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