Political economy of coal

Without phasing out global coal capacities in the power sector, international climate targets will likely be out of reach. Scenario analyses of optimal mitigation pathways consistently emphasize the need of phasing out coal in the upcoming two decades. Yet, many countries, in particular low- and middle-income countries, have massively ramped up their capacities in recent years. Current capacities in combination with what is under construction and planned can by themselves fully consume the available carbon budget still available for reaching the 1.5 degrees target if plants run until the end of their economic lifetime. In the “Politics of Coal” project by the EPfD Initiative, we aim to understand the underlying reasons for countries to invest in coal. We hypothesize that coal investments are often not a matter of pure economic reasoning but depend on the country-specific political economy factors. We aim to systematically understand and classify those reasons across countries following the “Actors Objectives, Context” Framework (Jakob et al. 2020). Results are envisaged to be published in a book by the end of 2021 with contributions from researchers, including many EfD affiliates, across the world. Understanding the country-specific political economy will facilitate the design of energy- and climate policies that facilitate the transition towards low-carbon energy systems.

Related publications:

Dorband, I. I., Jakob, M., & Steckel, J. C. (2020). Unraveling the political economy of coal: Insights from Vietnam. Energy Policy, 147, 111860.

Jakob, M., Steckel, J. C., Jotzo, F., Sovacool, B. K., Cornelsen, L., Chandra, R., ... & Urpelainen, J. (2020). The future of coal in a carbon-constrained climate. Nature Climate Change, 10(8), 704-707.

Jakob, M., Flachsland, C., Steckel, J. C., & Urpelainen, J. (2020). Actors, objectives, context: A framework of the political economy of energy and climate policy applied to India, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Energy Research & Social Science, 70, 101775.

Manych, Niccolò and Michael Jakob (forthcoming): Why coal? – The political economy of the electricity sector in the Philippines. Energy for Sustainable Development

Montrone, L., Ohlendorf, N., & Chandra, R. (2021). The political economy of coal in India–Evidence from expert interviews. Energy for Sustainable Development, 61, 230-240.

Ordonez, J., M. Jakob, J.C. Steckel, Anna Fünfgeld (forthcoming): Coal, power and coal-powered politics in Indonesia. Environmental Science and Policy.


Responsible for all the studies within the EPFD are

E. Somanathan som@isid.ac.in 

Jan Steckel Steckel@mcc-berlin.net


Tomas Sterner Thomas.sterner@economics.gu.se  

Project status
Project | 31 March 2021