Abstract: Transitioning to a decarbonized economy is a crucial part of climate change mitigation, with the phasing-out of coal, as the most significant source of carbon dioxide emissions, being the centerpiece of this effort. In the European context, the increasing pressures exerted especially on the basis of the European Union’s energy and climate policy, coupled with the inherent uncertainty of the transition process, encourage various struggles among the involved policy actors over the setting of specific transition pathways. One site of such contestation is media discourse, which may facilitate or limit policy change through agenda-setting, framing, and other processes. Importantly, discursive struggles also include industry incumbents, who have a vested interest in preserving the existing sociotechnical regime. This article focuses on the position of incumbents in terms of their relationship with governing political parties and the discursive strategies they employ. It explores the policy debate on coal mining expansion which took place in 2015 in the Czech Republic, a post-communist country with a coal-dependent economy, a skeptical position on energy transition, and a powerful energy industry. The research employs discourse network analysis to examine a corpus compiled from daily newspapers and applies block modeling techniques to analyze patterns of relationships within and between actor groups. The results show that incumbents successfully prevented policy change in the direction of rapid coal phase-out by exploiting discourse alignment with governing parties and efficiently employing discursive strategies based primarily on securitization of socioeconomic issues.
Keywords: coal; Czech Republic; energy; discourse network analysis; media discourse; newspapers; public policy