Decarbonisation Discourse in Society, Industry, Politics and Science

Wuppertal study on the influence of public discourse on decarbonisation in Germany published

  • News 29.01.2024

The decarbonisation of the German primary industry is an important topic in climate protection, which aims to reduce CO2-emissions in production. A socially relevant topic such as this always creates a discourse: public discussions, political debates and exchanges of opinion can influence the development of political measures.

But which actors are involved in the discourse? Which topics are important to these actors – and do these interests form coalitions of actors? What power structures can explain the discourse as it is today? Charlotte Hullmann, Junior Researcher in the Structural Change and Innovation Research Unit at the Wuppertal Institute, addressed these questions in her Master's thesis "Case Study on the German Discourse of Industry Decarbonization: A Discourse Network Analysis". Hullmann's main research question: How is the discourse on the decarbonisation of German industry shaped by discursive power and dominance? The study, which has now been published as a Wuppertal student research project, is the first scientific analysis of the discourse on industrial transformation in Germany.

"I'm the type of researcher who likes to communicate knowledge visually and present it at a glance. The representation of a discourse through a complex network of diverse actors who are connected by sharing common interests particularly appealed to me," says Hullmann about her motivation to make discourse network analysis the method of her master's thesis. The results were partly surprising for the researcher: contrary to her expectations, no coalitions of actors with opposing interests and therefore no power and dominance struggles were recognisable throughout the entire investigation period. The discourse can therefore be regarded as very homogeneous. Furthermore, the results suggest that decarbonisation is a consensus in the eyes of the actors involved – and that there are no general discursive obstacles to decarbonisation in relation to the period of the study. Further hypotheses and questions arise from the research results: One approach to explaining the homogeneous discourse is that the actors involved in the discourse primarily come from science, politics and industry and that it can therefore be seen as elitist. The question is whether and how the discourse of other parts of society could be depicted. Hullmann's thesis thus offers scope for further research and paves the way for interesting questions.

"Wuppertaler Studienarbeiten zur nachhaltigen Entwicklung" is a series which publishes scientific diploma and master theses. The thesis have been supervised by the Wuppertal Institute in cooperation with the respective universities, accepted by the universities and given an excellent mark. The entire study can be downloaded free of charge via the following link.

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