Niklas Harring

Senior Lecturer

Department of Political Science
Visiting address
Sprängkullsgatan 19
41123 Göteborg
Postal address
Box 711
40530 Göteborg

About Niklas Harring


Niklas Harring (PhD) is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science. He is to affiliated the Centre for Collective Action Research, Quality of Government Institute, Centre of Environmental Political Studies and Environment for Development

Areas of interest

In his research, Harring investigates the relationship between the citizens and the state. More specifically, he focuses on citizens’ acceptance and rejection of state intervention and coercion. Hence, he builds on a long tradition of political thinking and the role of the state in solving collective action problems. The empirical focus of his research is broad, covering several societal challenges that can be defined as collective action problems, such as environmental protection, climate mitigation, antimicrobial stewardship, pandemic fighting and deforestation, while the theoretical focus is foremost on the state as a provider of solutions to these problems, and citizens’ acceptance of these solutions and state coercion. His research contributes to an increased understanding of when and under what conditions coercion is perceived as acceptable. This research not only contributes to fundamental questions in political science, for example, on the relationship between citizens and the state, but also contributes to a larger scientific discussion on collective action. The findings are also relevant to policymakers. To solve several of the large-scale societal challenges we face (climate change, antimicrobial resistance, biodiversity loss, etc.) legitimate coercion will most likely be an important building block.

Keywords: Large-scale collective action, environmental politics, climate politics, environmental and climate policy instruments, political trust, social trust, values, corruption, quality of government, public opinion towards the environment, public opinion on climate change.

Current research

At the moment, Harring is involved in several research projects that aim to further explore questions of public acceptance of state coercion. Two of them are financed by the Swedish Research Council on Sustainability (Formas): A tax on meat – Is it politically feasible? (Project leader) and Climate policies for food consumption: Where’s the beef? Analyzing policy options and the political feasibility for a climate neutral welfare society, investigating the support and potential for climate policy within the food sector. These projects are relevant for the topical subject of climate change but also evoke important questions in political science as a discipline. Do people accept state intervention to steer their very personal choices such as diet habits? By studying this specific example, in various contexts, we learn more about the role of institutional trust and fairness perceptions on acceptance and support for policies targeting climate gas emissions caused by individual consumption choices. Furthermore, the projects contribute to a policy area which so far has received little attention: our diet patterns. This is an area that is relevant to both climate policy (our food consumption is said to constitute a large share of our green-house gas emissions), and to other policy areas such as natural resource depletion and health.

Together with Fredrik Hedenus (Chalmers University of Technology) and Simon Matti (Luleå University of Technology), Harring leads the project The importance of physical and socio-political factors for wind power deployment, which aims to identify, analyze and quantify socio-political and institutional factors that limit the potential for expansion of renewable energy production. The project is part of the Graduate School in Energy Systems and is financed by the Swedish Energy Agency. The PhD students Milla Marzelius, Emma Pakkala and Vyshnav Thaniyil Changattu also participate in the project.

Harring is also involved in the project Social Acceptance of a Green Transition in East Africa which aim to understand people’s attitudes toward climate policy intervention in Sub-Saharan Africa. Hence, contributing filling an empirical gap, as there are very few studies on climate policy attitudes from this part of the world. By extending the empirical focus, we learn more about the role of important factors identified by previous research, such as trust and fairness, as past conclusions have been drawn based on research done mostly in places where public institutions are comparatively well-functioning and/or climate emissions per capita are high. Exploring contexts where institutions are corrupt and climate emissions per capita are low will help us better understand the links between trust, fairness perceptions and attitudes toward state intervention. Furthermore, we will be able to make an important contribution to society as climate mitigation is a global concern. This research is funded by the Swedish Expert Group for Aid Studies, (EBA), collaborating with scholars in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, at the Environment for Development Centers (EfD) in these countries.

Teaching and tutoring

Harring lectures and teaches on courses in Political Science, European Studies, courses given in the interdisciplinary program, Program in Environmental Social Sciences (SMIL), and to students at the Faculty of Education, at the University of Gothenburg. At the moment, he is the course convenor for European Environment and Energy, given within the Master’s Program in European Studies and for the course Environmental Politics in Theory and Practice. He teaches at the master course, Environment, Lifestyles, and Individuals, Stockholm University.

He has supervised about 30 master and bachelor theses. He was the co-supervisor of Emma Ejelöv’s dissertation and at the moment he is co-supervising PhD candidate Frida Nilsson. He is also part of Inclusive Green Economy financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), which is a capacity building program training public official in five East-African countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda)