Journal Article - Global Environmental Politics

Leadership and the Energiewende: German Leadership by Diffusion

| November 2016


The German energy transition—or Energiewende—stands out globally as one of the most prominent and widely discussed plans to transform an energy system. However, the ways in which Germany can and does promote the diffusion of its model remain to be systematically reviewed. Aiming at closing this gap, this article develops an analytical framework for "leadership by diffusion" and applies it to the Energiewende. We find that, while Germany's aim of gaining followers has led to it becoming a highly active leader, a comprehensive strategy for effective leadership is still to emerge. Tapping the full potential of Energiewende leadership will require bundling existing initiatives and strengthening the availability of information on this transformation in the making. At the domestic level, the implementation of the Energiewende in Germany will need to consider the policy model's abilities to trigger innovation and generate knowledge and lessons that can facilitate policy action elsewhere.

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For Academic Citation: Steinbacher, Karoline and Michael Pahle. Leadership and the Energiewende: German Leadership by Diffusion.” Global Environmental Politics, vol. 16. no. 4. (November 2016):

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