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Action for Climate Transformation in Sweden – ACTS (2018-2021)

Climate action in the post-Paris policy landscape: The role of non-state initiatives in the transformation of Sweden into a fossil fuel-free welfare state.

The Paris Agreement has opened up a new chapter in political efforts to tackle climate change. It provides a new flexible framework for moving the world towards decarbonization, leaving goal-setting and implementation up to states. The Paris Agreement also officially recognizes the importance of non-state (e.g. business and civil society) and sub-national (e.g. regions and cities) climate initiatives. The climate regime thus combines top-down elements of international cooperation with bottom-up elements of voluntary societal climate action. This rapprochement of the realms of state and non-state climate action challenges the state’s traditional role as rule-maker and regulator and instead invites governments to become networkers, coordinators and facilitators in what has been framed as polycentric climate governance. 

The ACTS research project, funded by the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development (FORMAS) is a collaboration between researchers at Stockholm University, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Linköping University, led by project leader Prof. Karin Bäckstrand. The project seeks to understand how the interplay between state and non-state climate action unfolds in the post-Paris climate policy landscape through the following research questions:

  1. Which Swedish non-state and sub-national actors are mobilizing climate action through cooperative initiatives in Sweden and transnationally?
  2. How do these actors interpret the goal of turning Sweden into the world’s first fossil fuel-free welfare state, and which political strategies do they mobilize towards that end?
  3. To what extent can non-state initiatives effectively contribute to the process of decarbonization?
  4. To what extent can non-state initiatives increase the legitimacy of climate governance?
  5. What are the political effects of closer state/non-state interactions in terms of consensus-building, ideological conflict and political contestation?

To that end, we use Sweden’s official government policy to become the first fossil fuel-free welfare state as a case study. We examine the interactions between the Swedish state and non-state actors in emergent cooperative climate governance initiatives, assess the effectiveness and legitimacy of these interactions, and trace their political effects. The project will provide new insights into the possibilities for the Swedish government to mobilize and catalyze non-state climate action in the process of decarbonization. 

Contact information: Dr Oscar Widerberg

For more information, see: