Harder soft governance in European climate and energy policy: exploring a new trend in public policy

Michèle Knodt, Jonas J. Schoenefeld

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28 Citations (Scopus)
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While various forms of soft governance have been long in the making, there is a growing introduction of new policy elements in order to ‘harden’ soft governance arrangements. These new forms of ‘harder’ soft governance (HSG) vary in the degree of hardness in different settings. This special issue aims to derive lessons for climate and energy policy on HSG by looking across other policy fields and institutions where such ‘hardening’ has emerged, including in climate policy monitoring, the EU Energy Union, the UNFCCC, the OECD, the Open Method of Coordination, the European Semester, and policy surveillance in transnational city networks. Bringing the contributions together, this introduction reviews soft governance approaches, including their hardening. It then develops a framework for diagnosing HSG, including indicators such as obligations, justification, precision, ‘blaming and shaming’ opportunities, the role of third party actors, bundling, enforcement by policy field coupling, and sanctions. The introduction then identifies driving factors of HSG, including the role of the EU Member States, a strong need for coordination, policy entrepreneurs and institutional opportunities. The lessons from this special issue provide a useful yardstick for the future development of climate and energy governance, and the use of HSG in other policy fields.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761-773
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy & Planning
Issue number6
Early online date14 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Energy Union
  • European Semester
  • OECD
  • climate governance
  • harder soft governance
  • policy monitoring
  • soft governance

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