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Policy goals, partisanship and paradigmatic change in energy policy – analyzing parliamentary discourse in Germany over 30 years

Schmidt, Tobias S., Nicolas Schmid, and Sebastian Sewerin. 2019. Policy goals, partisanship and paradigmatic change in energy policy – analyzing parliamentary discourse in Germany over 30 years. Climate Policy. Online first.


The successful implementation of the Paris Agreement requires substantial energy policy change on the national level. In national energy policy-making, climate change mitigation goals have to be balanced with arguments on other national energy policy goals, namely limiting cost and increasing energy security. Thus far, very little is known about the relative importance of these goals and how they are related to political partisanship. In order to address this gap, we focus on parliamentary discourse around low-carbon energy futures in Germany over the past three decades and analyze the relative importance of, and partisanship around, energy policy goals. We find that the political discourse revolves around four, rather than three, goals as conventionally assumed; improving the competitiveness of the national energy technology industry is not only an additional energy policy goal, it is also highly important in the political discourse. In general, the relative importance of these goals is rather stable over time and partisanship around them is limited. Yet, a sub-analysis of the discourse on renewable energy technologies reveals a high level of partisanship, albeit decreasing over time. Particularly, the energy industry goal’s importance increases while its partisanship vanishes. We discuss how these findings can inform future energy policy research and provide a potential inroad for more ambitious national energy policies.

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