How to Get Coal Country to Vote for Climate Policy: The Effect of a ‘Just Transition Agreement’ on Spanish Election Results
73 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2023
Date Written: March 20, 2023
Enacting stringent climate policy has proven politically challenging, not least because of concentrated losses in fossil fuel-producing communities. “Just transition” strategies have been proposed to mitigate distributional challenges in such communities. Yet little is known about how such strategies affect voting behavior. Using a mixed-method approach, we exploit a local climate policy in Spain—a “Just Transition Agreement” (JTA) to phase-out coalmining, support affected workers and invest in affected municipalities—which was negotiated by the incumbent Socialist Party (PSOE) government with affected unions and businesses shortly before a national election. A difference-in-differences study shows that PSOE’s vote share in coalmining municipalities increased at the 2019 election relative to similar municipalities, implying that the JTA was electorally successful. Further statistical tests and elite interviews suggest that this electoral boost was driven by unions’ mobilization in support of the JTA. Our findings have implications for how parties can craft popular climate policy.
Keywords: climate change, energy, fossil fuels, Just Transition, Green New Deal, voting behavior, labor unions, comparative politics, mixed methods
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