Make Fossil Fuels Great Again? The Paris Agreement, Trump, and the US Fossil Fuel Industry – Global Environmental Politics – article

Make Fossil Fuels Great Again? The Paris Agreement, Trump, and the US Fossil Fuel Industry

Lukas Hermwille, Lisa Sanderink | Global Environmental Politics


Authors Theoretical advances suggest that international governance in general and the Paris Agreement in particular provide a strong signal guiding sociotechnical systems toward decarbonization. We assess this signal and its effects empirically, by examining the struggle of competing narratives as present in the communications of leading US fossil fuel industry associations and companies. The results are then discussed in the context of the national and international climate and energy policy debates in a study period from late 2014 until the announcement of withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in June 2017. We find that the Paris Agreement has institutionalized a narrative paradigm that is surprisingly resilient. While the election of Donald Trump and his climate and energy policy led to a narrative shift in the coal industry, the oil and gas industry remained conspicuously silent in its immediate response and maintained its narrative strategies despite its alignment with the Paris Agreement.© by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lukas HermwilleLukas Hermwille is a project coordinator at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, and Energy. His work focuses on market-based mitigation instruments as well as questions of the overall governance architecture of the climate regime. He leads the Wuppertal Institute’s contribution to the EU-funded COP21:RIPPLES ( project on the adequacy of the Paris Agreement, and he has worked on the transformation of energy sectors from a global perspective. He is a PhD candidate at IVM Institute for Environmental Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands.Lisa Sanderink*Lisa Sanderink is a researcher and PhD candidate in the Department of Environmental Policy Analysis at the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her research focuses on understanding institutional complexity of global climate and energy governance and examines coherence and effectiveness across renewable energy institutions, particularly multistakeholder partnerships. She is a member of the CLIMENGO project ( and a research fellow with the Earth System Governance network.*The authors thank Philipp Pattberg, Jennifer Hadden, and three anonymous reviewers for valuable feedback on earlier drafts of this article.


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