Climate Policy and Political Parties Project, 2013-2015: Executive Summary

The project (2013-2015) was funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council to explore the hitherto unexplored issue of political party activity and climate change policy.

• Research question guiding the project: How have mainstream political parties responded to the emergence of climate change as a policy issue?
• Mainstream centre-left and centre-right parties in six EU member states investigated to determine their position concerning climate mitigation policy – UK, Denmark, Italy, France, Germany and Ireland (two centre-right parties compared in Ireland).
• Created an innovative method for measuring the pro- and anti-climate policy content in party manifestos (mid-1990s to present).
• Together with interviews with party politicians, national climate policy experts and NGOs, our findings suggest:
a) Differences between centre-left and centre-right parties in percentage of pro/anti-climate policy manifesto promises in general; centre-left generally stronger with some exceptions (Denmark 2007, UK 2010).
b) For some countries, the period between 2007 and 2010 was the peak of pro-climate manifesto statements (Denmark, UK, Italy), explained by the surrounding events leading up to the Copenhagen COP 15 and the subsequent impact of the economic/Eurozone crisis.
c) Electoral politics, including the need for electoral pacts, green parties and government coalition, may influence centre-left and centre-right climate policy ambition (case studies of Denmark, France, Italy and Germany).
d) Beyond manifesto statements, discernible differences between the ambition of climate policy in government between centre-left and centre-right parties, even in countries considered climate policy leaders, i.e. Denmark, the UK and Germany.
e) Key individuals in centre-left and centre-right parties play a leadership position in advancing or instilling more ambition in national climate mitigation policies.
• Implications for national, EU and international climate change policy:
a) Partisan change of government is an important factor for medium to long term climate mitigation policy development, notably regarding investment in low carbon energy transitions;
b) Government change from left to right may affect the hoped for climate policy ‘ambition’ of national governments’ INDC’s, as decided by the Paris COP 21.
c) Regulation vs market approach to renewables, energy efficiency and carbon emissions reduction is tied to political party positions, therefore indirectly affects lobbying potential from business and environment interest groups.

Project team: Prof Robert Ladrech (PI), Keele University; Prof Neil Carter (Co-I), University of York; Dr Conor Little, University of Copenhagen, and Dr Vasiliki Tsagkroni, Keele University.