A whole-of-society approach to the clean energy transition

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Climate, Energy & Natural Resources
Friends of Europe A whole-of-society approach to the clean energy transition 2024


The transition to a carbon neutral economy is a major technological challenge but it will also require decisive political and social transformations. As stated by a recent working paper from the Peterson Institute for International Economics[1], integrating perspectives from different stakeholders, such as corporate executives, tech leaders and civil society organisations, and across disciplines can have a significant impact on shifting investments away from fossil fuels and towards green innovation.

This holistic perspective on technological choice highlights the expertise and support that can arise from the fields of sociology, political economy and anthropology to foster strategic synergies and interdisciplinary work in the energy landscape. As data from the International Energy Agency shows, the European energy sector already underwent critical transformations in the last few years, drastically reducing its dependency from Russia and, for the first time, producing more electricity from wind than gas in 2023, signalling record-breaking power generation from renewable sources. These transformations also affected citizens’ perceptions, as Debating Europe’s report ‘2024 Voices – Citizens Speak Up!’ shows that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a wake-up call regarding the social cost of relying on gas and oil imports.

At the same time, these transformations came with several complications for European citizens, creating spiralling adverse effects that led to energy poverty affecting 41 million people in the EU in 2022. With a new outlook for the energy landscape and shifting political priorities after the European elections, this Policy Insight offers a platform to discuss the pathways of the new European mandate between 2024 and 2029.

Multi-level governance can play a fundamental role in delivering the grand transformations of the energy system. For instance, at the EU level, the just transition and energy poverty can take central stage in initiatives such as the Renovation Wave. To complement this, urban and regional actors can act as trailblazers to foster behavioural change and clean energy solutions tailored to local contexts. Abiding to a comprehensive strategy and breaking across silos, Europe can secure an equitable and competitive transition.

Questions to be addressed in the debate include:

  • What benefits and momentum can cross-stakeholder and multidisciplinary synergies bring to the energy landscape?
  • How can the European Union support the scaling up of investments to reach energy efficiency targets and what role can direct technological change play?
  • How does multi-level governance work in practice for the clean energy transition goals in urban areas and what is the role for ‘Energy Communities’ in this process?


This Policy Insight is part of the SSH CENTRE (Social Sciences and Humanities for Climate, Energy and Transport Research Excellence) project.

This project, supported by 13 leading organisations from across Europe, engages directly with stakeholders including researchers, policymakers, business representatives as well as civil society and citizens to strengthen social innovation, SSH-STEM collaboration and transdisciplinary policy advice, to accelerate the EU’s transition to carbon neutrality.

This event will take place in Brussels and will be available to a wider audience via live stream. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, and join the #FoEDebate conversation!

[1] Acemoglu, D., Aghion, P., Barrage, L., & Hémous, D. (2023). Green innovation and the transition toward a clean economy (No. WP23-14)

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PHOTO CREDIT: Pavlo Glazkov/Shutterstock



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