The idea of low-carbon economy arises from the awareness of the epochal scope and the global relevance of the climate crisis, of its close connection with an economic system based on fossil fuels; from the unsustainability of a model of polluting economic growth, linear and high consumption and waste of natural resources to the growth of expectations for a better welfare and the need to reduce income inequalities that have reached unacceptable levels in recent decades. Indeed, low-carbon economy is not just a vision of the future based on awareness of the challenge of our time, however, it is a path of change able to propose challenging but possible solutions to the main problems we face nowadays. This path, which many key actors, in different parts of the world have already begun to follow, outlines a transition, an epochal change in the ideas that have guided the economy and development until now. In this study, the three features of innovation, financing and the political-institutional context, have been analyzed in LMEs and CMEs, as main drivers of the low-carbon transition. According to the analysis, in order to move to a low-carbon economy radical innovations in products and processes, specific element of liberal economies, are needed.
Consequently, since radical innovations usually present a high value of risk, they are better supported by private investors and the market, rather than public investments, which is instead a common practice in coordinated market economies. Lastly, although many studies argue that a coordination between actors involved in the transition is indispensable, the recent UK’s success in decarbonizing shows that coordination is important but not the focal point of transition. Actually, CMEs, that by definition present a great coordination between institutions, are usually defined by the powerful presence of trade unions which in the circumstance of a low-carbon transition may perform as an impediment, rather than a strength.