The Party Politics of Climate Change in Small European States. The Cases of Denmark and Ireland.

Conor Little, Robert Ladrech

The characteristics of small states generate multiple, sometimes contradictory expectations in relation to climate politics. Likewise, observed patterns of climate politics reflect considerable variation across small states and over time within small states. Political parties have employed a range of strategies, ranging from ignoring or rejecting climate change to initiatives that develop climate policies in support of their other goals. Correspondingly, the politicization and salience of climate policy issues varies widely, and parties have adopted a variety of positions on key climate policy issues. This paper examines the party politics of climate change in two countries: Denmark, which has been typically considered a 'leader' on climate change and Ireland, which has been considered a 'laggard'. While the positions of Denmark's parties have varied widely both between parties and over time, Ireland's parties display a more 'steady state' and consensual approach to climate policy. This paper aims to explore this variation; to explain it; and to assess the extent to which it has been carried through into government policy outputs. It provides estimates of the main Irish and Danish parties' positions on climate policy over time between the mid-1990s and 2016; it provides a qualitative analysis of climate change policies in Irish and Danish manifestos; and, drawing on documentary evidence and elite interviews, it asks what has shaped these positions, focusing initially on the parties' vote-, office-, policy- and cohesion-seeking incentives. It contributes to the body of literature on climate politics in small states, but it also contributes to the broader, developing literature on the domestic politics of climate change.

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