Abstract

Theoretical advances suggest that international governance in general and the Paris Agreement in particular provide a strong signal guiding sociotechnical systems toward decarbonization. We assess this signal and its effects empirically, by examining the struggle of competing narratives as present in the communications of leading US fossil fuel industry associations and companies. The results are then discussed in the context of the national and international climate and energy policy debates in a study period from late 2014 until the announcement of withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in June 2017. We find that the Paris Agreement has institutionalized a narrative paradigm that is surprisingly resilient. While the election of Donald Trump and his climate and energy policy led to a narrative shift in the coal industry, the oil and gas industry remained conspicuously silent in its immediate response and maintained its narrative strategies despite its alignment with the Paris Agreement.

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