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Same, Same but Different? Contested Visions of a Fossil Free Society

Environmental Policy
Green Politics
Climate Change
Jens Marquardt
Stockholm University
Jens Marquardt
Stockholm University
Naghmeh Nasiritousi
Stockholm University

Abstract

Mitigating climate change is often linked to large scale societal change, expressed through attempts towards decarbonization or sustainability transformations. Climate action becomes intrinsically linked to ideas and visions of a future climate-friendly society that is mobilized by states and non-state actors alike to legitimate climate action. While these shared visions of a future can bridge the divide between a variety of actors to work on climate change, they also run the risk to either remain empty signifiers without deeper meaning or paper over political controversies. By studying state and non-state actors in a front-runner country like Sweden, we aim to better understand the meaning and contested nature of an envisioned future decarbonized society. Doing so, we propose an analytical framework to engage with visions of a climate-related future critically. By 2045, Sweden aims to become the world’s first fossil-free welfare state, thus bringing together environmental protection with economic competitiveness and social values. While the Swedish government has launched its Fossil Free Sweden initiative to underline its commitment, it remains largely unclear what such a path towards a fossil-free society would entail in terms of deep societal transformation. Based on a discursive analysis of Sweden’s climate law and interviews with stakeholders of the Fossil Free Sweden initiative, we illuminate the contested visions of the future attached to the initiative. As a result, we identify themes of contestation and ambiguities that are easily silenced under the common vision. Mobilizing the analytical lens of sociotechnical imaginaries, we propose a framework to critically investigate visions of a climate-changed future.