Governing the EU’s Climate and Energy Transition in Times of Turbulence I - EU climate Governance to 2030 and Beyond
Climate change is a key area of EU policymaking that has developed over the past three decades in close connection with international climate politics, and within the broader internal and external economic and political contexts. In recent years, the multiple crises that the EU has faced have led to fears of a watering down or weakening of climate policy. Nevertheless, the EU adopted implementing measures for its 2030 climate and energy framework in 2018. In this panel, we discuss fresh and ongoing research analysing the shape, process and output of the EU’s climate and energy policy framework to 2030, focusing on leadership, ambition, and internal policy negotiations, as they developed within a turbulent governance context. The papers highlight the responses within the EU to the turbulent governance challenge, contributing to knowledge on European Studies, but also emphasise the potential for overcoming the remaining barriers to effective action on climate change.
Presentations of the Symposium
EU Climate Leadership Revisited
Literature on international climate politics has long analysed the role of the EU in pushing and pulling climate action forward. EU international leadership on climate change has moved from ‘rhetorical’ in the 1990s to ‘leadership-by-example’ in the 2000s, to a more modest ‘leadiator’ role in the 2010s. Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, there is a global momentum towards decarbonization, that has nonetheless faced challenges, such as the announcement by the Trump administration that the US will withdraw from the Agreement. The EU, member states, US states and city mayors have rallied around the Paris Agreement, yet commitments to action fall short of what is called for under the Paris Agreement’s objective to limit global temperature increase to below two degrees Celsius.
This paper revisits the long-standing literature on the importance of climate leadership within the context of turbulent global governance. First, we analyse the types and styles of leadership that can or have been assigned to the EU in international climate governance. Second, we discuss the drivers and barriers within the EU and in the external context that lead to the adoption of one type or style of leadership over another, and assess why. Third, we discuss the prospects for renewed EU leadership. We argue that the EU needs to proactively adapt its style and type of leadership approach to different contexts to lead the global climate transition.
Re-defining Ambition: EU Climate Mitigation in its 2030 and Long Term (2050) Strategy
As internal and external discussions around the 2030 strategy and the recently published 2050 strategy intensify, and by considering these strategies as processes “in the making”, one of the recurrent terms that the EU uses to refer to its climate action is “ambition”. However, what does ambition really mean in relation to the EU climate mitigation policy-making?
The aim of this paper is to investigate the structures of meanings (and its related practices) that shape the very concept of “mitigation”, in order to detect visible fractures in the way in which the “EU” as subject/actor currently thinks about climate mitigation action. The conceptual position of regarding mitigation as a discursive practice allows for analysing the political process following the adoption of the 2030 strategy package and informing /shaping the new 2050 long-term strategy.
The paper provides an account of an extensive period of fieldwork conducted both in Brussels and at the two last UNCOP23 and UNCOP24, which consisted of ethnographic-inspired participant observations backed up by interviews both inside and outside the “Brussels’ bubble”. The theoretical framework informing this discourse analysis is provided by Lacan’s theory of the subject and his five discourses which allow for reconstructing and problematising the social bond which, more or less consciously, structures the EU as a speaking subject in the 2030 and, possibly, 2050 strategy. Special attention is dedicated to interesting attempts by EU representatives to break with or resist a given dominant discourse, by challenging apparently fixed structures of meanings.
When the EU Implements its 2030 Energy and Climate Commitments: Preferences and Bargaining Satisfaction of Member States in the Council of the EU
In this paper, I unpack the preferences and bargaining satisfaction of EU member states in the context of two recently adopted legislative acts implementing EU’s 2030 energy and climate framework.
I adopt a process-tracing methodology, and analyse two recent negotiations directly related to EU’s 2030 commitments, and adopted under qualified majority voting rules in two policy sectors: Energy Efficiency Directive - 2016/0376(COD), Effort- Sharing Regulation - 2016/0231(COD).
Between September 2017 and December 2018, sixty semi-structured interviews were conducted in Brussels with national negotiators from all member states. Following the established methodology of the EU Decides project (Thomson, 2011), research respondents were asked to represent on a scale the distribution of member states’ positions on the main controversial provisions of each negotiation and explain the political and inter-personal dynamics leading to their adoption.
This research aims at providing a refined understanding of the power and bargaining success of member states in the shaping process of EU energy and climate policies, by comparing systematically the distance between their initial political preferences and the final outcome of these negotiations. In doing so, this research intends to uncover the role of member states’ power resources (particularly in terms of social network and administrative capacity) for explaining their ability to successfully influence (or not) the outcome of legislative processes.