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About the project COALSTAKE.

The project COALSTAKE is a research project on national coal policy-making funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS). The main goal is to understand the multi-step links from energy stakeholders' resource endowments to their practice related to national policy processes, and further to their influence on national coal policies.  It is a multidisciplinary endeavor, as it turns out that Political Economy is useful when we identify relevant stakeholder resources but Institutional Sociology provides key causal explanations that bridge actor resources and policy outcomes. The project runs from Oct 2019 through Sept 2021.
Video[2:46] - Interview by SNIS: "COALSTAKE: Comparative Analyses of Stakeholder & Resource Industries' strategies in IPE"

Why do countries differ in their policy choices about coal energy?

How are such policies shaped by the interplay of different politically relevant actors?

How do stakeholders’ concerns about the local coal production industry affect the country's coal policies?

What about the role of countries' embeddedness in international trade networks in shaping their coal policies?

Coal accounts for 28% of the global primary energy supply (2017). At the same time, coal-fired power generation is the single largest source of CO₂ emissions. Over 80% of the world’s coal reserves must remain unused to reach the target of limiting global warming to below 2℃ compared to pre-industrial levels. This is why national policies to discontinue the use and/or the mining of coal have been considered in many countries. This project investigates why such phase-out policies have been adopted by some jurisdictions, while the issue has not even been brought on to the political agenda in others.


The project proceeds from the observation that our research question cannot be fully answered by focusing only on country-level factors, such as a country’s economic development level, its coal reserves, coal trade patterns, and the amount of interest groups advocating for environmental protection. Rather, it appears to be valuable to conduct a systematic and actor-centered policy process analysis. Hence, our project pays close attention to the interests, goals and activities of policy actors, including domestic stakeholders such as interest groups, energy companies, trade associations, local governments, and many others. The following are among the key questions the project aims to answer:

  • What are the coal-related interests of key energy stakeholders, and what coalitions emerge among them?

  • Why are some actors more influential than others in translating their interests into policy outcomes?

  • What learnings can jurisdictions draw from coal policy trajectories in other jurisdictions?


Conceptually, this interdisciplinary project is anchored in Economics, Political Science, Sociology, and Transition Studies. Our project will first bring the relevant theories from these disciplines together. Subsequently, the research team will analyze empirically the links among energy stakeholders' resource endowments, their policy-related activities and the evolution of discourses around coal energy. These analyses include a special emphasis on the role and abilities of local resource-production industries, their positioning in global resource trade, and their employees, because sustainable and politically feasible fossil fuel policies are not possible without addressing these challenges. We are going to unravel these questions through comparative case studies of Australia, Canada, Germany, and Japan.

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