Public Choice Analysis of Germany’s Climate Policy


Professor Hillebrand at the PSA Annual International Conference 2019 at Nottingham Trent University, UK

‘(Un)Sustainbable Politics in a Changing World’ – this was the leitmotif of this year‘s renowned Annual International Conference of the Political Studies Association (PSA), which took place at Nottingham Trent University, UK, from 14 to 17 April 2019. The PSA conferences regularly bring together leading international scholars to discuss current issues and latest research in the fields of political science and political economy.

In his talk, Professor Hillebrand discussed Germany’s arguably ambitious climate policy and its shortcomings. While the government, in line with the Paris Agreement on climate protection, has committed the country to the goal of a more or less GHG-neutral economy by 2050, actual progress at de-carbonisation has been limited so far. In fact, Germany is set to miss substantially its intermediate target for 2020 of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent relative to the base year level of 1990.

Professor Hillebrand argued that, even though the goal seems to be generally accepted in the country and by all major political parties, the instrumental path and implementation of policy measures remain subject to dispute. He used a Public Choice approach to analyse the rent-seeking behaviour of political actors (including the federal government, emission-intensive and environmental-friendly industries and NGOs) and their resistance to an effective and efficient set of policy measures, which would be necessary to achieve sustainability. In particular, he showed how these actors manage to shape climate protection policies to their own benefit. The focus was on the greening of the energy system (the so-called Energiewende), the cornerstone of Germany’s climate protection strategy.

Nottingham Trent University, the venue for this year’s PSA Annual International Conference, is a leading university in Britain and one of Fulda’s closest international partner universities.