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Demanding Power: the contentious popular politics of energy subsidy reforms I 
Naomi Hossain (American University)
Marjoke Oosterom (Institute of Development Studies)
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Infrastructure and energy
Experimental Mixed
Tuesday 29 June, 10:00-11:45 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

Fossil fuel subsidies encourage unsustainable carbon emissions and benefit the rich, yet efforts to cut them are unpopular and resisted. The panel invites interventions exploring the contentious politics of fuel subsidies, and of citizen engagement in energy transition policymaking.

Long Abstract

Fossil fuel subsidies are common and resilient, despite the growing global policy and political elite consensus that they are environmentally damaging, fiscally unsustainable, socially inequitable, and should be progressively eliminated. While global gatherings such as COP26 will debate these issues, the voices of others, such as citizens whose livelihoods depend on affordable fuel, are rarely heard in this context. Mass protests, particularly among low income urban groups, are a common result of energy pricing decisions made in elitist and closed policy spaces. Subsidy reforms are frequently stalled or reversed in response. This panel invites papers or other interventions - e.g. film, photography, activist testimony or campaign strategies - that help make sense of the popular political obstacles to fossil fuel subsidy reform. Contributions are particularly welcome if they shed light on the rationale for and organization of protests against subsidy cuts and/or tax rises (as seen recently in countries as varied as France, Chile, Ecuador, Iraq, Iran, and Haiti). Documentation and analysis of efforts to break the elite stranglehold on energy policymaking, to create and make spaces for citizens to have their say without or in addition to resorting to the streets, would also be welcome.

Accepted papers: