Social movements in energy transitions: The politics of fossil fuel energy pathways in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Poland

Sabine Hielscher*, Julia M. Wittmayer, Alicja Dańkowska

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Pathways towards low-carbon energy transitions have become a priority in 21st century Europe. The commitment to lowering carbon dioxide emissions have triggered changes to current fossil fuel-based energy systems. Over the past decade, fossil fuel energy pathways have been characterized by closures of sites, continued extractions and new explorations, demonstrating processes of (dis)continuation. This paper contributes to the recent line of work that draws attention to the contentious politics in sustainability transitions and the role of social movements by drawing on case study work in which we trace social mobilizations alongside key policy and industry developments linked to onshore oil and gas and coal projects in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Poland over the past ten years. Drawing on the notion of scalar practices, we identify political strategies and opportunities for the discontinuation of fossil fuels, but we also examine how political spaces are impinged and closed down to support continuation processes. Our analysis demonstrates how decision-making powers and possibilities for scrutinizing and taking actions against fossil fuels are negotiated between local and central government, local communities and residents, grassroots movements, national NGOs, and fossil fuel industries. We conclude that all actors are involved in scalar practices, and non-fossil energy pathways remain challenging if the government and industry actors keep trying to displace the politics linked to fossil fuel energy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101073
JournalExtractive Industries and Society
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the people (i.e. the interviewees), who have given up their time to talk to us about their work and the SONNET research team. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837498, SONNET. A final thanks goes to the three reviewers for their constructive and helpful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


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