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How to Get Coal Country to Vote for Climate Policy: The Effect of a “Just Transition Agreement” on Spanish Election Results

Stringent climate policies often face political barriers, partly due to concentrated losses in fossil fuel-producing communities. While “just transition” strategies are designed to mitigate this distributional challenge, little is known about how such strategies affect voting behaviour.

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A study published in the American Political Science Review examines Spain’s climate policy—a “just transition agreement” (JTA) to phase out coal mining and support affected workers and municipalities—which was negotiated by the incumbent Socialist Party (PSOE) government with affected unions and businesses shortly before a national election.

The study reveals that PSOE’s vote share in coal mining municipalities increased at the 2019 election relative to similar municipalities, implying that the JTA was electorally successful. Further statistical tests and interviews with elites who were involved in negotiating the JTA suggest that this electoral boost was driven by unions’ support of the agreement. The findings also have implications for how parties can craft popular climate policy.

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