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Panel 708: EU as a Green Actor: Sustainability & EU Energy Policies
Tuesday, 03/Sep/2019:
4:45pm - 6:15pm

Session Chair: Helene Dyrhauge, Roskilde University
Location: Room 12.08

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EU as a Green Actor: Sustainability & EU Energy Policies

Chair(s): Helene Dyrhauge (Roskilde University, Denmark)

Our understanding of the concept of sustainability has changed over time for example through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals and a more narrow definition of sustainability through the lens of climate and energy actions. This leads to the question of to what extent a European model of sustainability has emerged. The papers in this panel all contribute with analyses of European sustainability focusing on energy and climate policies, both external energy policies in relation to the energy community in southeast Europe and internally in relation to the energy union. Moreover, the analysis of EU's external actions is extended to the UNCOP negotiations and a broader understanding of sustainability as a discursive concept and in terms of a European environmental conscience.

Reis and Kurze's papers focus on the EU's normative export of its approach to energy and climate change. Whereas Hoerber et al and Tolis papers analyse how the EU' define and understand sustainability in relation to the integration of energy policies and its discursive approach to UNCOP negotiations. All four papers contribute to our understanding of the EU's normative powers and contribute to a conceptualisation of a European model of sustainability.


Presentations of the Symposium


Diffusing a 'European Model' of the Sustainability Norm? A Case Study of EU External Energy Policy

Kristina Kurze
University of Göttingen

European conceptions of sustainable development have been shaped significantly by a global agenda (e.g. Brundtland Report; UN Sustainable Development Goals). At the same time, the EU is an important actor promoting the (ambiguous) norm of sustainable development internally and beyond its borders. Hence, sustainable development is also described as constitutive for the EU as a “normative power”. To explore this argument empirically, I draw on the external governance approach, which provides insights into how the EU exports its internal policies and norms. In this particular case study, I focus on the diffusion of the sustainable development norm as part of the EU’s external energy policy. More precisely, the paper focuses on a key energy cooperation – namely the Energy Community. The Energy Community was initiated by the EU, among other reasons, to extent its energy acquis to Southeast Europe. However, since its foundation in 2006, the Energy Community has gone through a significant process of enlargement – now including also Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine – as well as deepening.

Ensuring energy security and market-building are still the main objectives, but sustainability is an emerging topic increasingly shaping the type of norms selected and adopted by the Energy Community. Against this background, the paper first outlines this shift in rule selection and argues that the EU is thereby exporting a particular (i.e. narrow) “European model” of sustainability. Second, the paper discusses the implications of norm selection and norm adoption both in theoretical terms (i.e. concerning norm diffusion) and practical terms (i.e. concerning the clean energy transition).


The European Union as a Green Actor: Assessment of the EU's Role in Global Governance of Climate Change

Liliana Reis
Universidade Lusíada do Porto and University of Beira Interior

The categorization of the European Union as a global actor has been based on its ability to act in the international system. Therefore, its assessment has been clearly linked to and dependent on the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). However, one of the most important issues facing the international system, and crossed both policies, is climate change. Actually, what has been the EU's role in global governance in relation to climate change? From the endogenous point of view, how has the EU aggregate the member states in relation to this global threat? From the exogenous point of view, has it succeeded in taking on a green agenda that is binding on all States at the global level?

This paper seeks to assess the role of the European Union as a global actor on climate change field, revealing the main internal dynamics and above all its international action in this domain.

It is concluded that the presentation of the EU as a normative and soft actor is also reflected in the commitment it has shown to the leadership of the agenda for climate change, notwithstanding the internal difficulties that it faced in recent years.


The Long Road towards an Energy Union: National Sovereignty meets European Environmental Conscience – The development of European Sustainabilism

Thomas Hoerber1, Gabriel Weber1, Ignazio Cabras2
1ESSCA, 2Northumbria University Newcaste

The article will treat the convergence toward an Energy Union in the EU from the beginnings of energy policy within the European integration framework in the European coal and Steel Community to today. The historical perspective will highlight that the necessity to develop a common energy policy has been at the heart of the European integration process right from the start. It will also show that national prerogatives in the energy sector have always overruled this European logic, until the point when energy policy meet environmental concerns. Building on the thesis of a growing European environmental conscience (Hoerber 2013), this article will argue the logic of a joined energy policy against the backdrop of a now established European environmental conscience. Eventually, this growing environmental conscience amounts to a new ideology for European integration which we shall call European Sustainabilism and which evidently contributes to the progress of the European integration process and perhaps even to a European identity.


Re-defining Environmental Sustainability in Europe: Breaking Discourse Boundaries?

Valeria Tolis
Cardiff University

The aim of this paper is to investigate the structures of meanings (and its related practices) that shape the very concept of “sustainability”, with a focus on its environmental dimension, in order to detect fractures in the way in which the EU as subject/actor thinks about sustainability. The conceptual position of regarding sustainability as a discursive practice allows for problematising the EU agenda, summed up in the 2030 strategy package or the new 2050 long-term strategy, where discursive interdependencies between energy, climate and environment are constituted.

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”. A special interest is dedicated to attempts by EU representatives to break with or resist a given dominant discourse, most notably during events/interviews related to boundary-breaking topics such as Circular Economy and degrowth/postgrowth. The theoretical framework informing this discourse analysis is provided by Jacques Lacan’s theory of the subject and his five discourses which allow for understanding the social bond which, more or less consciously, structures the EU as a speaking subject.

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