The Climate Policies of the Nordic Countries

The point of departure for this political science project under the Centre for Sustainability and Society (SUSY) is the high degree of similarity between the climate policies of the Nordic countries, and various attempts at explaining why this is the case. Thus, the basic research question in the project is: “What are the factors that contribute to the similarity of the climate policies of the Nordic countries?”

Similarity between Nordic countries climate policies

At a first glance such similarity seems quite surprising. Firstly, at the level of international politics it has been argued that ‘Norden’ as a political distinct unit as well as an ideational construct, has disintegrated following the unification of Germany and the end of the Cold War, and the joining of the EU by Sweden and Finland in 1995 (Denmark already being a member since 1973).

Secondly, the trajectories of energy production in the Nordic countries would seem to predispose the countries for different climate policies. Norway and Denmark for example are oil and natural gas producing and –exporting countries, while the other Nordic countries have no oil or gas. Also the Nordic countries have widely different preconditions when it comes to renewable energy: Norway and Sweden being blessed with plentiful hydropower resources, Iceland with geothermal energy, while Denmark and Finland are less fortunate in this respect. One should think that these very different geographical/geological preconditions would result in different climate and energy policies if each country were to pursue its own interests.

However, the literature on policy convergence or policy diffusion offers some inroads to explaining why convergence is taking place despite these discrepancies. Theoretically, the project therefore takes its point of departure in theories of policy convergence and policy diffusion. These theories, especially the theory of policy convergence points towards such factors as international institutions (The UN and its treaties, the European Union, etc.), and what is called transnational communication (emulation, policy learning and transnational epistemic communities) as the main explanatory factors in explaining policy convergence. Following this line of investigation, special attention is given to the role which institutions like the Nordic Council of Ministers, the municipalities in the different Nordic countries, and the common Scandinavian market for electricity plays.

For further information on the project contact:

Jens Villiam Hoff
Department of Political Science
University of Copenhagen

Phone: +45 35 32 33 86 / +45 24 87 70 82

Read more about the project at: the Puzzle of the Nordic Consensus.