701-1563-00L  Climate Policy

SemesterAutumn Semester 2023
LecturersA. Patt, S. Hanger-Kopp
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish


701-1563-00 GClimate Policy
In the autumn semester 2023, Prof. Patt will be on Sabbatical, for this reason he will join virtually to give his lectures. Most of the other lectures will be given by Susanne Hanger and several invited guests.
4 hrs
Wed12:15-14:00HG D 1.2 »
Fri12:15-14:00HG D 1.2 »
A. Patt, S. Hanger-Kopp

Catalogue data

AbstractThis course provides an in-depth of analysis both of the theoretical underpinnings to different approaches to climate policy at the international and national levels, and how these different approaches have played out in practice. Students will learn how legislative frameworks have developed over the last 25 years, and also be able to appraise those frameworks critically.
ObjectiveThe goal is to give students a glimpse into the enormous complexity of this policy area, an understanding of some of the many debates that are currently raging (of which the debate about whether climate change is actually real is probably the least complicated or interesting). We want to give students the ability to evaluate policy arguments made by politicians, experts, and academics with a critical eye, informed by a knowledge of history, an understanding of the theoretical underpinnings, and the results of empirical testing of different strategies. A student taking this course ought to be able to step into an NGO or government agency involved in climate policy analysis or political advocacy, and immediately be able to make an informed and creative contribution. Moreover, by experiencing the depth of this policy area, students should be able to appreciate the complexity inherent in all policy areas.
ContentClimate change is one of the defining challenges of our time, touching all aspects of the environment and of society. There is broad recognition (although with some dissent) that governments ought to do something about it: making sure that emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) stop within the next 20 to 30 years; helping people to adapt to the consequences of the climate change to which we have already committed ourselves; and, most controversially, perhaps taking measures to actively remove GHG’s from the atmosphere, or to alter the radiation balance of the Earth through solar engineering.

It’s a complicated set of problems, especially the first of these, known as mitigation. Fundamentally this is because it means doing something that humanity has never really tried before at a planetary scale: deliberately altering the ways the we produce, convert, and consume energy, which is at the heart of modern society. Modern society – the entire anthropocene – grew up on fossil fuels, and the huge benefits they offered in terms of energy that was inexpensive, easy to transport and store, and very dense in terms of its energy content per unit mass or volume. How to manage a society of over 7 billion people, at anything like today’s living standards, without the benefits of that energy, is a question for which there is no easy answer. There are also other challenges outside of energy. How do we build houses, office buildings, and infrastructure networks without cement, a substance that releases large amounts of CO2 as it hardens? How do we reverse the pace of deforestation, particularly in developing countries? How do we eliminate the GHG emissions from agriculture: the methane from cows’ bellies and rice paddies, together with the chemicals that enter the atmosphere from the application of fertilizer?

These are all tough questions at a technical level, but even tougher when you consider that governments typically need to employ indirect methods to get these things to happen. Arguably a government could simply pass a law that forbids people from using fossil fuels. But politically this is simply unrealistic, at least while so many people depend on fossil fuels in their daily lives. What is to be done? For this, one needs to turn to various ideas about how government can and should influence society. On the one hand are ideas suggesting that government ought to play a very limited role, relative to private actors, and should step in only to correct “market failures,” with interventions designed specifically around that failure. On the other hand are ideas suggesting that government (meaning all of us, working together through a democratic process) is the appropriate decision-making body for core decisions on where society can and should go. These issues come to the fore in climate policy discussions and debates.
LiteratureThere will be reading assignments some classes. All of these will be posted in PDF format on a course Moodle. In addition, there will be two books, and one report to be read over the course of the semester. They are:

The Climate Casino, by William Nordhaus

Ministry of the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Ten Principles for Policy Making in the Energy Transition, by Laura Diaz Anadon et al.
Subject-specific CompetenciesConcepts and Theoriesassessed
Method-specific CompetenciesAnalytical Competenciesassessed
Social CompetenciesCommunicationfostered
Personal CompetenciesCreative Thinkingassessed
Critical Thinkingassessed

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits6 credits
ExaminersA. Patt, S. Hanger-Kopp
Typeend-of-semester examination
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionA repetition date will be offered in the first two weeks of the semester immediately consecutive.
Mode of examinationwritten 120 minutes
Additional information on mode of examination- a set of written assignments (mandatory) counting 25% of the final grade
- a final examination (120 minutes) counting 75% of the final grade.
Written aidsNone

Learning materials

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