Policy Proposals

Policy proposals serve as a backbone for the energy transition, and are developed, lobbied for or against, and modified by many stakeholders before the policy is passed or declined by decision-makers in government. Understanding how policy options are developed is important for members of the public, and for young people in particular, as influencing the policy development process can be one of the most effective ways to take action to transform the energy system.


Sujay Simha Sairam

Consulting Intern, FutureCamp Climate GmbH

Student Energy


What is Policy Proposals?

A policy proposal acts as the skeletal blueprint to realize political ambition; it cuts institutional teeth to accelerate this transition. 3

Policy proposals are developed, lobbied for or against, and modified by many stakeholders before they are accepted or rejected by elected representatives in the government. 

From the local to international level, governments have already or are being pushed to adopt policies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Due to the complexity of climate change, there are many possible policy options with different costs, benefits, and timeframes. Understanding how policy options are developed is important for members of the public, and for young people in particular, as influencing the policy development process can be one of the most effective ways to take action to transform the energy system.

A policy proposal typically consists of a written document, of varying length and complexity. A common misconception is that all policy proposals are complex and lengthy. However, there are many examples of short proposals that still spark widespread discussion and carry significant political weight – for example, the Green New Deal Resolution proposed in the United States is a proposal that is under 15 pages long. 1

A policy proposal is the realization and quantification of political ambition via time-bound milestones. The International Centre for Policy Advocacy (ICPA), a non-profit focused on capacity building of young policy advocates and researchers, defines a policy proposal as a document that “details the rationale for and a proposed approach to the investigation of a specific policy problem”. Here are some of the key elements a policy proposal often contains: 2

  • An outline of what the policy is, its scope (geographic reach, timeframe, actors it will impact)
  • A synthesis of the research and evidence that supports the policy outline and intended impact
  • A synthesis of the consultation and engagement process, or evidence of widespread public support, that prove that the policy is timely and necessary
  • Sometimes, policy proposals include several alternative policy options in addition to the main recommendation


Public participation in the formation of a policy proposal

From local to global level, governments are being urged by citizens and scientists to implement policies favoring robust measures for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. A policy proposal is officially announced or released by a set of democratically instituted stakeholders, primarily, the national government. However, the proposal translates into actionable legislation only after a process of public consultation. This public consultation stage is one of the major ways people can participate in the policymaking process. Feedback from the general public, plays a crucial role in shaping a policy proposal, to ensure that the benefits and burdens from the policy are equitably distributed. However, input from members of the public, and young people in particular, is also necessary in shaping how consultations take place, as consultations can only truly be inclusive if everyone who will be affected by the policy is given access to sufficient information, time, and avenues of communication to fully share their perspectives. Once drafted, this policy proposal paves the way for legally binding legislation. 

Other reasons a policy proposal may be developed:

  • Reaction to civil society protests to reassert legitimacy of the government.
  • Fiscal motivation for the private sector and foreign investors to invest in development and implementation of renewable energy technologies or breakthrough technologies that pave the way for decarbonization.
  • A ‘first-mover advantage’ against other countries at policy advocacy forums such as the Climate Action Summit 2019 in New York, USA and the COP25 in Madrid, Spain.
  • Pathways for potential strategic partnerships or cooperation agreements with other countries, and thereby deterministic of the country’s foreign policy: in this case climate diplomacy.

Notably, several policy proposals aspire to strengthen existing frameworks towards fulfillment of current political ambition. A policy proposal is thus a litmus test to measure the respective government’s commitments at the national and global level.

Dive deeper

Recent blog posts about Policy Proposals

External resources

In the context of energy transition, Europe’s Climate Law is one example of a  policy proposal that is helping to drive the energy transition. 4

The Climate Law is an outcome of Europe’s Green Deal (EGD) policy proposal, which was announced in December 2019. It builds on the existing Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action. It is also coherent with the European Council’s Strategic Agenda 2019-24, which is focused on making Europe more green, fair, social and climate neutral. The Green Deal sought to establish a pathway for carbon neutrality by 2050 by integrating the findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reports. It clubs the key policy initiatives of the Green Deal – EGD Investment Plan, Just Transition Fund- with other existing initiatives of the European Union- EU Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change and the European Climate Pact.

The transformation of the EGD policy proposal to the Climate Law rests on key pillars of participatory governance and policy-making:

  1. Legal: consistent with Article 191 and 193 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)
  2. Subsidiarity: coordinated action at the national and local level.
  3. Proportionality: transparency and accounting via periodic assessment reporting.
  4. Impact Assessment: impact on key economic sectors (cross-sectoral coupling). The plan for which would be shared by September 2020.
  5. Fundamental Rights: coherent to Article 37 of the Charter on Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU) on environmental protection and sustainable development.

The European Green Deal is an example of a policy proposal that upholds principles of participatory governance and works within the framework of the EU while at the same time avoiding redundant processes.

  1. Congress.gov (2019). H. Res. 109. Resolution Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal. https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.pdf
  2. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. (2019). Developing Policy Proposals. https://www.gov.nl.ca/pep/developing-policy-proposals/
  3. National Research Council. (2011). Advancing the science of climate change. Chapter 17: Designing, Implementing, and Evaluating Climate Policies. National Academies Press. https://www.nap.edu/read/12782/chapter/21
  4. European Commission (2020). European Climate Law. https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/eu-climate-action/law_en