European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Climate Backlash: Contentious Reactions to Policy Action

Project description

Shedding light on climate backlash

Currently, climate change governance theory is unable to explain sudden and impactful reactions to climate policy actions known as climate backlash. Contributing to this field, the EU-funded BACKLASH project aims to empirically study contentious reactions to climate policy actions by examining cases across and within advanced industrialised countries. This will consist of a two-level study of 36 OECD countries and four in-depth national cases of climate policy and reactions to it. Project outcomes will inform the design of ambitious climate policy, and pave the way for new approaches to the interdisciplinary study of policy-society dynamics in addressing contested collective problems.


Growing calls for ambitious climate change action are challenging for governance because such action can trigger backlash. Why do societies sometimes accept costly public good action, but at other times push back suddenly and reject it? Abrupt and impactful reactions to climate policy actions are increasingly witnessed: Climate Backlash. Examples include the Yellow Vests in France, and acrimonious policy rollbacks in Canada and Australia. Climate change governance theory is, so far, unable to account for such dynamics, which undermines prospects for ambitious climate action. The challenge of BACKLASH is to empirically study, and ultimately to theorise, this type of contentious reaction to policy action. The aim of BACKLASH is to explain why, how, and under which conditions climate backlash emerges in advanced industrial democracies. BACKLASH will: 1) Identify the configurational drivers of climate backlash across varying national contexts, 2) Determine the mechanisms and processes by which climate backlash occurs within specific national contexts, 3) Establish whether and how climate backlash diffuses within and between countries, and 4) Explain the forms (i.e. institutionalised, non-institutionalised) and variation of climate backlash across contexts. To accomplish this, BACKLASH will conduct a two-level study of 36 OECD countries, and 4 in-depth national cases of climate policy, namely Australia, Canada, France, United Kingdom. BACKLASH is ground-breaking in: 1) pioneering an original interdisciplinary lens for studying climate backlash, 2) advancing an ambitious mixed-methods research design, and applying and testing new innovations in cross-case analysis, and 3) tackling a new combination of challenging empirical circumstances confronting the field of climate governance with profound implications for policy-society dynamics. This will open up new frontiers for the interdisciplinary study of backlash to policy in addressing contentious collective problems.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 491 458,00
3584 CS Utrecht

See on map

West-Nederland Utrecht Utrecht
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 491 458,00

Beneficiaries (1)