Challenges in accelerating net-zero transitions: insights from transport electrification in Germany and California

Rogge, Karoline S. / Nicholas Goedeking
External Publications (2024)

in: Environmental Research Letters 19 , article 044007

Open access

Addressing the climate crisis necessitates accelerating transitions towards climate-neutral systems of production and consumption, with electrification emerging as a crucial decarbonisation strategy. The acceleration of such net-zero transitions across multiple systems faces significant resistance and contestation. In this paper, we propose an extended list of challenges unique to the acceleration phase of socio-technical transitions: we introduce 'expansion and contestation', 'justice', and 'international dynamics' as additional challenge types to complement the already acknowledged challenge types of 'whole systems change', 'interaction between multiple systems', 'decline and resistance', 'consumers and social practices', and 'governance'. We apply this extended analytical framework to the electrification of private-passenger vehicles and investigate the unfolding transition to e-mobility with evidence from 35 expert interviews in Germany and California. We uncover over 50 real-world challenges associated with these net-zero transitions at the beginning of the acceleration phase. Most challenges fall within the categories of 'expansion and contestation' and 'governance'. While Germany and California share many real-world challenges, we also find significant variation between both jurisdictions, which we attribute to differences in their automotive incumbency, transition governance approaches, and institutional contexts. We discuss implications for future research, arguing for greater attention to the dual politics of acceleration during net-zero transitions: political conflict not only centres around the decline of old industries and future losses, but also around the expansion of the new system and associated future gains.

About the author

Goedeking, Nicholas

Comparative Political Economy


Further experts

Aleksandrova, Mariya

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Brandi, Clara

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Dippel, Beatrice


Donnelly, Aiveen

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Ekoh, Susan S.

Environmental Research 

Lehmann, Ina

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Malerba, Daniele


Mathis, Okka Lou

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Never, Babette

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Pegels, Anna


Srigiri, Srinivasa Reddy

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