Comparative analysis of socio-political dynamics in carbon intensive regions



This deliverable reflects the status of knowledge and research on the objectives, and findings under the subsection of Work package (WP) 2: WP2.2. socio-political dimension of transition dynamics in four carbon-intensive regions of Europe, namely Ida-Virumaa (Estonia), North-Rhine Westphalia (Germany), Silesia (Poland) and Western Macedonia (Greece). The first subtask 2.2.1. comparative analysis of socio-political implications is led by the research team at the Wuppertal Institute. Collaborating with the regional partners, the research team  employed a policy narrative analysis to study and compare the political discourse in four carbon-intensive regions. They specifically focused on narratives that characterise the political discourse around just transition. The researchers found that hopeful narratives describing  structural change as an opportunity to reinvent the region are prevalent in all regions. Strong narratives of resistance only prevail in Silesia (Poland) and Ida-Virumaa (Estonia) where a phase-out decision has not yet been adopted. In terms of injustices, they found surprisingly little evidence that injustices related to the immediate effects of the transformation (e.g., lay-offs and compensation for workers and companies) play an important role. Instead, the aspects related to the historical injustices produced by the legacy industrial system prevail. And perhaps most importantly, questions about access and allocation of the opportunities of the imminent transition are key and should be addressed more explicitly. Meanwhile, the research team at the University of Bergen collaborated with the regional partners and carried out the second subtask 2.2.2. in-depth analysis of the relationship between decarbonization, populism, and anti-democratic attitudes built their analyses on comparing the 2014 European election with the 2019 European election results, and their potential political outcomes amid regional decarbonization. They found that the populist right wing discursive tactics in European regional decarbonization are prevalent and vary widely. Anti-democratic rhetoric, including conservative public policy, xenophobia, and Eurosceptic and national sovereignty discourses are commonly used by three populist right parties, namely the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), Alternative for Germany (AfD), and Law and Justice (PiS) in Poland, to politicize decarbonization. EKRE and PiS typically portray themselves as the  protectors of social insurance and safety for vulnerable groups affected by regional decarbonization. PiS and AfD harness regional identity to mobilize civic engagement against decarbonization. All three parties work to empty and dismantle key decarbonization institutions. Overall, these findings suggest that carbon-intensive regions are particularly susceptible to the discursive tactics and institutional work of populist right wing parties and may therefore provide opportunities for these parties to constrain decarbonization more broadly.


  • Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation, University of Bergen

  • Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy

  • E3 Modelling

  • EKUK - Estonian Environmental Research Centre

  • University of Silesia, (on behalf of WiseEuropa)