Considering the increasing sense of urgency about climate change and governments’ potential role in facilitating change through adopting more ambitious mitigation policies, one important question is how different modes of governance make it easier or more difficult to effect the needed change.

Corporatism describes a governance model that includes broad participation in decision-making, dialogue and a consensual style of policy-making – features often associated with the Scandinavian countries. While previous research has suggested that corporatism in national politics promotes more ambitious environmental policies, others have argued that in some cases it can hinder such ambition.

Suggesting that these conflicting views might be down to oversimplification of corporatism, this article breaks the macro concept down into three components: inclusiveness, consensualism and the strength of tripartite organizations (representing government, labour and business). It compares two similar Nordic polities, Sweden and Finland, which have very different levels of ambition in climate policy and success in emissions reduction – with Sweden leading in both.

The analysis measures the components of corporatism at the meso level of policy networks. The authors find that inclusiveness and consensualism (at least among more influential actors) – both of which are stronger in Sweden than in Finland – seem to promote ambitious climate policy. On the other hand, if tripartite organizations are stronger, as in Finland, and in the same political coalitions that exclude NGOs, this can work against policy ambition.