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The COALSTAKE project concluded in March 2023

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

The research project COALSTAKE (The Political Economy of Coal Policy: Comparative Analyses of Stakeholder Strategies and Resource Industries’ Embeddedness in the International Economy) concluded in March 2023. We are grateful for the unwavering support provided by SNIS, the Swiss Network for International Studies, throughout this journey.


This page reports the involved members (awesome junior researchers!), the main objectives of the project, key insights, related publications, and so on.


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About the project – in short

In 2021, coal-powered electricity hit record levels globally, despite increasing talks about reducing coal use. One major roadblock? Powerful coal industry groups resisting change. In our COALSTAKE project, we delved deep into coal policies in Australia, Germany, and Japan. We wanted to understand the tactics these groups use to protect their interests and keep coal dominant.

We kicked off with extensive reviews on how technologies decline and are phased out. From this, we crafted the EPI (Endowment-Practices-Institutions) framework—a blueprint linking policy actions, the strategies of the relevant groups, and the broader institutions.

Here's what we wanted to uncover:

  • In each case, what forms of institutional work have been carried out by key actors in favor of or against a coal phase-out in each case? What are the interests of the actors and emerging coalitions concerning a coal phase-out?

  • What are the commonalities and differences across the cases under investigation regarding actors’ practices or strategies in pursuing their policy goals?

  • Do concerns about jobs and the national economy play a role in shaping national coal policies?

Synthesis

Our findings come from interviews, surveys, and extensive data research. Here's what stood out:

  • In order to defend their interests, incumbent actors (“pro-coal” actors) rely heavily on inside lobbying, which is often enabled by long-existing ties among the coal industry, trade unions, state actors, and bureaucracy. On the other hand, the actors challenging the coal regime tend to struggle to match the inside lobbying practices of incumbents. Even in the case of Germany, where civil society is more influential and environmental NGOs have more considerable resources, incumbent actors possess closer personal ties with the state actors and ministries.

  • In all our cases, incumbent actors have also carried out outside lobbying, such as creating alliances with research institutions, commissioning or conducting studies, being active in social and conventional media, organising demonstrations, organising expert conferences, and filing lawsuits. Here, it is interesting to notice that even in the case of Japan, where there is no domestic coal production, the economic aspects and techno-optimism for new technologies such as CSS and ammonia co-firing are central in incumbents’ discourse.

  • A common pattern emerging from the practices of coal regime challengers is to first commission a scientific study, then disseminate the results through various media channels, followed by demonstrations.

  • The contextual differences between the countries also lead to variations in actors' strategies. Given the lower public sentiment towards climate and environmental issues compared to the other two countries in question, the challengers in Japan have been trying to create an impact by approaching investors and financial institutions.

  • Finally, potential economic loss and job losses linked to a phase-out policy are common narratives used by the incumbents in all the cases. The effectiveness of this narrative was also confirmed in a separate large-N study of the public’s fossil fuel tax support in 21 European countries. (The study, which does not include Australia and Japan, was primarily to confirm the general pattern using an available large-N dataset.)

Papers & outreach activities by the COALSTAKE project

Journal articles

  • Rosenbloom, D., & Rinscheid, A. (2020). Deliberate decline: An emerging frontier for the study and practice of decarbonization. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 11(6), e669.

  • Trencher, G., Rinscheid, A., Duygan, M., Truong, N., & Asuka, J. (2020). Revisiting carbon lock-in in energy systems: Explaining the perpetuation of coal power in Japan. Energy Research & Social Science, 69, 101770.

  • Duygan, M., Kachi, A., Oliveira, T. D., & Rinscheid, A. (2021). Introducing the Endowment-Practice-Institutions (EPI) framework for studying agency in the institutional contestation of socio-technical regimes. Journal of Cleaner Production, 296, 126396.

  • Markard, J., Rinscheid, A., & Widdel, L. (2021). Analyzing transitions through the lens of discourse networks: Coal phase-out in Germany. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 40, 315-331.

  • Rinscheid, A., Rosenbloom, D., Markard, J., & Turnheim, B. (2021). From terminating to transforming: The role of phase-out in sustainability transitions. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 41, 27–31.

  • Stutzer, R., Rinscheid, A., Oliveira, T. D., Loureiro, P. M., Kachi, A., & Duygan, M. (2021). Black coal, thin ice: the discursive legitimisation of Australian coal in the age of climate change. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8(1).

  • Trencher, G., Rinscheid, A., Rosenbloom, D., & Truong, B. (2022). The rise of phase-out as a critical decarbonisation approach: A systematic review’. Environmental Research Letters 17, 123002.

  • Duygan, M., Kachi, A., Temocin, P., Trencher, G. (2023). A Tale of Two Coal Regimes: An Actor-Oriented Analysis of Destabilisation and Maintenance of Coal Regimes in Germany and Japan. Energy Research and Social Science.

Technical report

  • Rinscheid, A., Kern, N., & Kachi, A. (2022). Findings from a Survey among the Stakeholders of the German Energy System. Available at SSRN 4157733.

  • Barbato, L. (2022). Coal Phase-Out and Its Labor-Market Implications with the Focus on Germany. Bachelor’s thesis in Economics at the University of Basel supervised by A. Kachi.

Working papers

  • Fairbrother, M., Kachi, A., & Ramos Gonçalves, S. (2023). The Role of Emission Intensity of the Job on Workforce’s Climate Policy Support. Working paper

Published blogs and shorter discussion pieces related to the project

Conference presentations and other outreach activities

  • Workshop, European Consortium for Political Research General Conference, Wroclaw (Poland), 6 September 2019, “A conceptual framework for elucidating how agency shapes destabilization of socio-technical systems.” (Duygan, Presenter)

  • COALSTAKE Kick-off expert workshop Coal Challenge, Basel (Switzerland), January 2020. (Kachi, Rinscheid, Duygan, Oliveira, Stutzer; Organization, moderation, presentations*); Presentations by the COALSTAKE members during the expert workshop included:

    1. Research design that led to the article “Black coal, thin ice: the discursive legitimisation of Australian coal in the age of climate change” (Oliveira)

    2. A nascent draft of “Introducing the Endowment-Practice-Institutions (EPI) framework for studying agency in the institutional contestation of socio-technical regimes” (Duygan)

    3. A survey design that led to the report “Findings from a Survey among the Stakeholders of the German Energy System” (Kachi, Oeri, Rinscheid)

    4. An interview design that led to the article “A tale of two coal regimes: An actor-oriented analysis of destabilisation and maintenance of coal regimes in Germany and Japan” (Duygan, Kachi)

  • COALSTAKE Kick-off workshop Coal Challenge, Public Event, Basel (Switzerland), January 2020. (Kachi, Rinscheid, Duygan, Oliveira, Stutzer; Organization

  • Podcast contribution, Scientists for Future Podcast #7 Kohleausstieg, 2020, available at https://s4f-podcast.de/2020/06/s4f007-kohleausstieg/ (Rinscheid, Speaker)

  • Invited Talk, “Deliberate decline and phase-out in sustainability transitions”, Oslo (Norway), 25 March 2021, TIK Senter for teknologi, innovasjon og kultur (Rinscheid, Speaker)

  • Pre-conference Workshop Beyond Coal - Designing Coal Phase-outs Across the Globe, 21 June 2021, 26th Annual Conference of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (Rinscheid, Invited discussant)

  • Research Presentation at the International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP), 9 July 2021, “Analyzing transitions through the lens of discourse networks: Coal phase-out in Germany”, (Rinscheid, Presenter)

  • SNIS Final Workshop, The Political Economy of Coal Policy: Can We Design a Better Transition? Virtual, 27 June 2022 (Kachi, Duygan; Organization, moderation)

  • Workshop, In Search for Decoupling, Stockholm (Sweden), 13 October 2022, “The Role of Emission Intensity of the Job on Workforce’s Climate Policy Support.” (Kachi, Presenter)

  • Swiss Political Science Association Annual Congress, Basel (Switzerland), 3 February 2023, “The Role of Emission Intensity of the Job on Workforce’s Climate Policy Support.” (Kachi, Presenter)

  • IAEE (The International Association of Energy Economics) Webinar, 16:00 CEST 7 June 2023. On stranded assets and energy transition with a focus on coal. (Kachi) [Originally planned on 1 February 2023 but postponed to June 2023.]

Who were involved in the project?

Aya Kachi (PI), Adrian Rinscheid (Co-Coordinator), Mert Duygan (Co-Coordinator)


Tabea Baumgartner (Research Assistant), Noëlle Fricker (Researcher), Sabina Ramos Gonçalves (Research Assistant), Natalie Kern (Research Assistant), Fintan Oeri (Researcher), Thiago Dumont Oliveira (Researcher), Daniel Rosenbloom (Researcher), Roman Stutzer (Research Assistant), Pinar Temocin (Researcher), Heinrich Jakob Wild (Research Assistant), Joshua Woodyatt (Research Assistant)


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