Why Some Countries Just Can’t Quit Coal

We know that countries around the world sometimes favor coal because it is cheaper. But new research aims to pinpoint some of the political forces that drive continued investment in coal.

Jan Steckel, along with his research collaborator Michael Jakob, are coordinating a series of global case studies to understand the non-economic factors associated with investment in coal-fired power. The series includes over a dozen countries with collaborators from all corners of the world using a political-economy framework developed by Jan Steckel and Michael Jakob’s team at the Mercator Institute.

Their research examines what interests and actors that make investment in coal (or divestment) politically so attractive. And in so doing, they also identify possible entry points for policies that nudge countries away from coal.

Jan Steckel is head of the working group on climate and development at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change. He joins us from Berlin to discuss this research.

Their framework is published online here, and one of the case studies is published here.


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Today’s episode is part of series of episodes that showcase the research and work of the Sustainable Energy Transitions Initiative. SETI is an interdisciplinary global collaborative that aims to foster research on energy access and energy transitions in low and middle-income countries. Currently, SETI is housed at Duke University, where it is led by Professors Subhrendu Pattanayak and Marc Jeuland. To learn more about SETI, follow them on Twitter @SETIenergy.