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Top-down or bottom-up? Norwegian climate mitigation policy as a contested hybrid of policy approaches

Erlend Andre Tveiten Hermansen, Göran Sundqvist

It is widely accepted that the Paris Agreement implies a shift in global climate mitigation policy from a top-down approach focused on global distribution of emission cuts and international cost-effectiveness to a bottom-up approach based on national efforts. Less is known about how this shift at the global level trickles down and manifests in national climate mitigation policy. Norway is in this respect an interesting example, since it has long been portrayed as an important driver of an international top-down approach. In this paper, we demonstrate that Norwegian policy cannot be characterised as a ‘pure’ top-down regime; policy instruments and measures directed at specific technology investments and deployment to complement cost-effective (international) policy instruments have been an explicit government ambition for a long time. Second, by using the case of biofuels, we analyse how the two approaches have been combined in practice over the past decade. Using the notion of ‘hybrid management’, we demonstrate that the top-down approach has left a lasting imprint on Norwegian mitigation policy, but also that this approach has increasingly been challenged by bottom-up thinking, leaving Norwegian climate mitigation policy as a contested hybrid of policy approaches. We conclude that inadequate institutional arrangements for productively managing the tensions between the two approaches have hampered progress in Norwegian policy in curbing domestic emissions. We expect that Norwegian climate mitigation will become increasingly hybridised in the coming decades, and suggest that cultivating hybridisation can be a productive approach for policy progress.

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