Moving beyond opportunity narratives in COVID-19 green recoveries: A comparative analysis of public investment plans in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom

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Abstract

This article makes two contributions to the COVID-related green recovery literature, which is dominated by optimistic and speculative opportunity narratives. Mobilising insights from political science theories, our conceptual contribution is to suggest that green recovery analyses should focus not only on the opportunities (‘permissive conditions’) created by the COVID-crisis, but also on the actions and strategic considerations (‘productive conditions’) and pre-existing contexts (‘critical antecedents’) that shape the exploitation of these opportunities. Our empirical contribution is to analyse actual green recovery spending plans of three leading countries (France, Germany, and the UK), focusing on the size, sectoral allocation, and implementation choices, which differ markedly. France spends the most, both in absolute and GDP-relative terms, followed by Germany. UK spending is 43% less than France. The UK and France mostly support existing sectors (buildings, railways), while Germany focuses 57.8% of its funding on new technologies (electric vehicles, hydrogen). We explain country differences by analysing different mixes of strategic considerations, including climate mitigation, jobs, GDP growth, productivity, exports, global competitiveness, regional support, social fairness, party politics, and electoral ambitions. We relate these different motivations to pre-existing context conditions such as varying socio-economic effects of the COVID-crisis, pre-existing concerns (e.g., high unemployment, social and regional inequalities), the economic importance of particular sectors, and pre-existing climate policy plans. We conclude that the green recovery plans are powerfully shaped by pre-existing contexts, plans and developments, which constrain the use of the crisis-induced opportunities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102368
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Volume84
Early online date12 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Green recovery
  • Implementation
  • Public investment
  • Strategic motivations

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Innovation Research

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