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Hugh Compston

Emeritus Professor

School of Law and Politics

Media commentator


I research in the areas of public policy, political economy, and climate politics. My projects are as follows.

Comparing climate policies

Views about what particular countries should do about climate change are informed by perceptions of what they have been doing, but the few systematic international comparisons of climate policy strength made so far have serious weaknesses, particularly those that assign arbitrary weightings to different policy instrument types in order to calculate an aggregate score for policy strength. This study avoids these problems by ranking the six biggest emitters by far - China, the US, the EU, India, Russia, and Japan - on a set of six key policy instruments that are individually potent and together representative of climate policy as a whole. The results for 2013 are as follows:

Carbon taxes:             EU/Japan

Emissions trading:        EU; Japan/China; US.

Feed-in tariffs:           Japan; EU/India; China; US

Quotas:                     US/India; EU

Fossil fuel power plant bans:  China; US; EU

Vehicle emissions standards: EU/Japan; China/US

See Climate Policies Compared: The Strong Climate Policy Index, 2014, under Related links below.

Anti-climate policies

In recent years there has been a clear trend towards stronger climate policies all over the world. But this is only half the story. At the very same time that new climate policies are being introduced, governments are also introducing policies that have the exact opposite effect, such as giving permission for huge new coal mining ventures, approving new airports, and striking new free trade agreements. This study breaks new ground by giving this category of policies a name – anti-climate policies – before going on to identify as many different types as possible, record their incidence in China, the US, and EU, assess the extent to which their implementation nullifies the advances made by strengthening climate policies, and begin the process of explaining their incidence.

See Climate Policies and Anti-Climate Policies, 2013, under Publications.

The global network of corporate control

To what extent do transnational companies (TNCs) have the capacity to influence public policy? This article uses the results of a major new study of TNC ownership to shed light on this issue. It is found that TNC ownership and control is extremely concentrated and that there is an inner core of TNCs with strong co-ownership links that is overrepresented in the membership of major business organisations. It is concluded that these factors enhance the potential for TNCs in general, and core TNCs in particular, to influence public policy.

See The Network of Global Corporate Control: Implications for Public Policy, 2013, under Related links below.

The Politics of Climate Policy

This project is aimed at identifying political strategies that would make it easier for national governments to make further and deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions while avoiding significant political damage. Promising options include strategies involving unilateral action by governments, strategies of persuasion, damage limitation strategies, strategies that can be used in political exchange with other political actors, and strategies designed to improve the bargaining position of governments by altering the terms of political exchange.

See The Politics of Climate Policy: Strategic Options for National Governments, 2010, and Climate Clever, 2012, under Publications.


Main projects

2007-present: The Politics of Climate Policy. This project is aimed at identifying political strategies that would make it easier for national governments to make further and deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions while avoiding significant political damage.

2007-2008: Policy Network Theory and the Future of Public Policy. This ESRC-funded research explored the extent to which policy network theory can be developed into a theory of policy change that can be used to illuminate the likely future of public policy in affluent European democracies.

2004-2006: King Trends and the Future of Public Policy. This project used policy network theory to identify the likely direction of future policy change via identifying the impact on the views and power resources of participants in policy-making of all the major long-term technological, economic, environmental and social trends that I could identify (king trends). The results were published in my book King Trends and the Future of Public Policy (2006).

2002-2004: Public Policy in Britain, France and Germany. Brought together over 50 policy experts to put together the first comprehensive account of the nature and content of public policy in Britain, France and Germany over the full range of public areas. Each chapter of the resulting book – Handbook of Public Policy in Europe: Britain, France and Germany (2004)- describes the nature of public policy in a particular area, makes detailed comparisons of selected aspects, and sketches recent developments.

1997-2002: Policy Concertation in Western Europe. Investigated the dynamics of policy concertation - the codetermination of public policy by governments, employers and trade unions - by assembling historical and political case studies of policy concertation in ten West European countries and subjecting these to systematic comparative analysis. Published as Policy Concertation and Social Partnership: Lessons for the 21st Century (edited with Stefan Berger, 2002), and ‘Beyond Corporatism: A Configurational Theory of Policy Concertation’, European Journal of Political Research Vol. 42, 2003, pp.809-831.

1996-2001: Social Partnership in the European Union. Investigated the extent to which the development and operation of social partnership at European Union level can be explained in terms of self-interest, as opposed to factors such as ideas or cultural or ideological values, by bringing together experts to analyse the positions and actions of the Commission and other major EU-level policy actors. Published as Social Partnership in the European Union (edited with Justin Greenwood, 2001).

1994-1996: The Politics of Radical Unemployment Policies. Brought together country experts to evaluate the political viability of a number of unorthodox policies designed to fight unemployment. Published as The New Politics of Unemployment (1996).

1990-1997: Trade Union Power and Unemployment. Investigated and measured union participation in economic policy-making, and used pooled time-series analysis to establish that this was consistently associated with low unemployment in 13 West European countries during the period 1972-1993. Results published in articles in the European Journal of Political Research (co-authored by Paul Boreham), West European Politics, Journal of European Public Policy and Comparative Political Studies.


Career profile

2010-2016: Professor of Politics, Cardiff School of European Languages, Translation and Politics, Cardiff University

2006-2010: Reader in Politics, School of European Studies, Cardiff University

2004-2005: Leverhulme Research Fellow, School of European Studies, Cardiff University

2001-2006: Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of European Studies, Cardiff University

1992-2001: Lecturer in Politics, School of European Studies, Cardiff University

1991-1992: Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Strathclyde

1991: Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow and Acting Associate Director, Australia-New Zealand Studies Center, Pennsylvania State University

1990: Research Associate, Department of Government, University of Queensland

1987-1990: PhD in Political Science, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, 1990. Dissertation - The Electoral Impact of Tax: A Comparative Study of Sweden and Australia.

1984-1986: LittB in Political Science, Faculty of Arts, Australian National University, 1986. Dissertation - How Much is Enough? A New Approach to the Setting of a Rational Target for the Single Adult Unemployment Benefit Rate.

1977-1987: Private music teacher, Canberra

1977: Assistant Research Officer, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra

1976: BA (Hons 2A) in Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Australian National University

Main research leadership positions

Convener, Politics of Climate Change Project, 2006-present.

Director, Workshop on the Politics of Climate Change, European Consortium for Political Research Joint Sessions, Rennes, 11-16 April 2008.

Convened the European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on Comparative Political Economy, 1997-2006

Directed Workshops at European Consortium for Political Research Joint Sessions in 1995, 1999 and 2002

Coordinated international projects on the content of public policy in Britain, France and Germany, policy concertation in Western Europe, and the politics of radical unemployment policies in Western Europe

Main awards and prizes

  • ESRC Small Grant RES-000-22-2147 to research and write my book Understanding Policy Change: A Policy Network Perspective, 2007-08
  • Leverhulme Research Fellowship to research and write my book King Trends and the Future of Public Policy, 2004-05
  • Grant from the European Commission to finance social partnership project, 1998-2000
  • Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Strathclyde, 1991-92
  • Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship, Pennsylvania State University, 1991
  • Swedish Institute/Council of Europe Fellowship, Sweden, 1988