Despite political efforts to achieve policy coherence, apparent trade-offs and goal conflicts have emerged – even in a proclaimed ‘front-runner’ country like Sweden.

This paper examines the role of ideas in proposing and legitimising policy options and achieving policy coherence in the light of the Swedish recovery debate in 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ideas of a green economic recovery put forward in the public debate are examined through thematic text and frame analysis. The authors show that ideas of a green transition, boosted by economic recovery spending, draw on a synergistic frame in combining social, environmental, and economic policy options, carrying a potential for coherency.

However, the absence of a discussion on power, as in who stands to gain what under which circumstances, coupled with an inherent understanding of a temporal hierarchy of policy priorities does not only impact the ability to design coherent policies but may have considerable impacts on the prospects of achieving sustainability transformations.