Policy Stability in Climate Governance: The Case of the United Kingdom

Katharine Rietig, Timothy Laing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


‘Super-wicked' problems such as climate change require ambitious policies within stable policy frameworks. Key for policy stability is to disincentivise future reversals to carbon-intensive lifestyles resulting in unstoppable climate change. It requires lock-in into a low-carbon development trajectory, increasing popular support and needs to be self-reinforcing with reversal costs rising over time as benefits increase. In parliamentary political systems (e.g. UK), policies emerge more easily but are more difficult to maintain given that shifting political majorities can result in policy U-turns, resulting in uncertainties for investment in low-carbon transitions. We examine what factors determine policy stability in UK Climate Change Policy aiming to reduce CO2 emissions by 85-90% by 2050. Policy stability depends on favourable public opinion and the political system. In the case of parliamentary democracies the extent to which it is embedded into a multilevel governance institutional framework and political cross-party consensus is particularly important for policy stability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-587
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Rietig, K., and Laing, T. (2017) Policy Stability in Climate Governance: The case of the United Kingdom. Env. Pol. Gov., doi: 10.1002/eet.1762., which has been published in final form at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eet.1762/abstract. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


  • Climate policy
  • public opinion
  • political system
  • climate governance
  • policy stability


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