Resistance strategies seek to preserve current conditions and resist drivers of change.

Luftbild Der Autobahn Tim Gouw

What is a resistance coping strategy?

Resistance strategies seek to preserve current conditions and resist drivers of change.

Who engages in resistance strategies?

Such actions can be carried out at different geographic levels – local, provincial, regional, national, supranational – and by different stakeholders. In the regional cases studied in CINTRAN, however, resistance actions at the local and national levels predominate.

At the national level, resistance coping strategies are typically led by incumbent energy industries. Incumbent industries are existing industrial interests that would be harmed by coal divestment. These involve politicians—government politicians, especially—, trade unions leaders, and company executives.

At the local level, resistance to decarbonization is generally expressed by two sets of actors:

  • groups of miners, most of the times organized by trade unions and generally supported by local authorities;
  • local citizens committees, often with the support of local authorities

What do resistance coping strategies look like?

Resistance coping strategies look different depending on who is undertaking them, and the resources they have available. Resistance strategies at the national level are mainly conducted in the hallways of politics, in negotiations between politicians and trade union leaders and company executives.

Local-level actions usually take the form of:

  • Protest rallies
  • Underground sit-ins in mines
  • Petitions to regional and national governments to stop the decarbonization activity, or provide adequate safeguards for those affected
  • Citizens’ participation in meetings and consultations

Example – National resistance to coal phase-out

The Polish national administrations have established the Polish Mining Group (PGG) in a bid to save the existing public mining company, Kompania Węglowa, from bankruptcy, and extend the lifeline of coal extraction. This is a strategy that resists EU decarbonisation policies.

Example – National resistance to wind power

The Estonian government has used resistance strategies to oppose a wind farm project in Ida-Virumaa in the Aidu area, on the territory of a former open-pit oil shale mine. The government stopped construction on the grounds of non-compliance with technical construction specifications, and stated that the wind farm’s blades would interfere with the work capacity of the national defence advance warning system.

Example – Local resistance to wind power

Civic committees and local governments resisted the installation of wind farms in several areas of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany (e.g., in the Paderborn area in 2017-18 and in the Tönisvorst area in 2019-20) through the use of citizen petitions, and legal procedures. This led to the stalling, modification, or abandonment of planned construction.

Example – Local resistance to coal phase-out

The miners of Silesia and Western Macedonia have, on several occasions, protested mine closures. These resistance strategies are usually organized by the trade unions and have taken various forms:

  • Underground sit-ins inside the mines
  • Protest marches in the cities where the mines are located
  • Blockades of trains loaded with coal from Russia
  • Negotiations with the national government on the date for the coal phase-out.

What prompts resistance strategies?

Resistance strategies can be undertaken either in anticipation of future decarbonisation efforts, or in response to decarbonisation activities that are actively occurring. They are often undertaken in response to two different types of decarbonisation activities:

  • Plans for the closure of plants or operations that are no longer economically viable, too polluting, or not in accordance with current transition plans. These are typically opposed by workers in the fossil energy industry (e.g., mining, gas plants), and related trade unions, as well as public or private managers of these industries.
  • Plans for the installation of renewable or low carbon infrastructure. In the four regions studied in CINTRAN, the greatest opposition is found against wind farms developments.

Resistance coping strategies against closures are usually based on three arguments:

  • The job losses that will likely result from rapid transitions, and their consequences for local, national and regional livelihoods and economies
  • The need to proceed more slowly to allow industry time to adjust to changes
  • Energy security considerations, especially where resources are mined or produced locally and contribute to national energy supplies

Arguments in opposition to the installation of new, low-carbon infrastructures often focus on:

  • The aesthetic value of landscape change, and the negative impact of new infrastructure, especially in areas perceived as pristine
  • Non-visual pollution caused by new infrastructure (e.g., sound, vibration)
  • A lack of involvement in the project’s decision-making processes

When are resistance strategies most likely?

Resistance strategies are prominent in early to middle stages of the transition, when carbon intensive industries are still locked in and dominant, but where there is growing pressure to transform. There are likely very strong trade unions, and a high level of political support for existing industries. While resistance strategies persist throughout all transition phases, they become less frequent and prominent as the carbon-intensive system phases out, political pressure for change builds, and new, renewable, industries become dominant. Resistance strategies also change in focus as the transition progresses as there is a decrease in likelihood that outright resistance will be successful.


What are other types of coping strategies?

  • Adaptation strategies attempt to protect the functioning of the existing system from substantial change. Read more.
  • Transformative coping strategies challenge the stability of the existing system by introducing fundamentally new ways of thinking, acting, doing and organising. Read more.



Barnes, M. L., Bodin, Ö., Guerrero, A. M., McAllister, R. R., Alexander, S. M., & Robins, G. (2017). The social structural foundations of adaptation and transformation in social–ecological systems. Ecology and Society22(4).

Nacke, L., Jewell, J., Cherp, A. 2021. A diagnostic framework for feasibility of low carbon transitions in coal dependent regions. CINTRAN Project Report. European Union Horizon 2020 grant agreement no. 884539.

O’Brien, K. (2012). Global environmental change II: From adaptation to deliberate transformation. Progress in Human Geography36(5), 667-676.




The project CINTRAN has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 884539. The sole responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the authors and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of INEA or other EU agencies or bodies.