The EU and Global Sustainable Futures II: Climate Change Action
In the second proposed panel about the role of the EU in global sustainable futures, we focus on discourses and methodologies around the issue of climate change. The EU positioned itself as a leader in the fight against climate change globally, but the approaches and specific commitments of its member States are clearly uneven. This panel will seek to discuss what is the state of play on climate change actions within the EU and the member States, in particular after the 2015 Paris Agreement. Some papers will also include comparisons of said state of play with other parts of the world, which reinforces the view of climate change as a global issue. Papers will not only contribute to the topic through different perspectives and disciplines, but also through innovative methodological approaches, which can certainly enrich this broad research area. Beginning with a review of the evolution of climate change politics in the EU since the 1990s (More) to contextualise the panel, a second paper (Moulton) will look at the use of climate change as a legitimation element for the EU. The third paper (Boumans) looks at the specific actions on energy transition as contributors to the fight against climate change, while the fourth paper (Tobin and Paterson) look at the ambitions of the member States in their respective climate change actions to decide if policy changes are necessary in order to reach the agreed sustainability targets in the near future.
Presentations of the Symposium
Mitigation by Stealth? The European Union’s Evolving High and Low Politics of Climate Change
Governance in the European Union takes place in many venues and at multiple levels, from the ‘high politics’ of European Council decisions to the ‘low politics’ surrounding the negotiation of detailed settings for individual policy instruments. This paper explores how these levels interact. To do so, it examines EU climate mitigation policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The ‘high politics’ of EU climate mitigation policy revolves around high-profile negotiations in the European Council on the headline reduction targets for the Union in future years (e.g., 2020 and 2030). These negotiations are closely connected with ‘low politics’ negotiations on individual policy instruments.
Since the mid-1990s, when the EU agreed to its target for the negotiations surrounding the Kyoto Protocol, negotiations—and disagreements—about the reduction targets have grown, with member states, led by Poland, repeatedly blocking attempts to raise the target outside of negotiations on the 2020 and 2030 targets. At the same time, less-prominent negotiations on policy instruments such as the EU Emissions Trading System have made a number of decisions that—while formally not related to the EU reduction target—in practice increase the EU’s commitments.
Does this constitute ‘mitigation by stealth’, and like the broader pattern of ‘integration by stealth’, is it undertaken as a conscious strategy by policy actors that wish to raise the EU’s reduction target but have been unsuccessful in the European Council. This paper examines these questions and places these dynamics in the context of wider debates on European integration in the 21st century.
Energy Transition in the European Union and the World – Is it Going Far Enough? A Cross-sectional Analysis Using an Economic Expert Survey
In this paper, we analyse the perceptions of economic experts in European countries on energy transition in the energy policy of their respective country and how this is perceived in relation to climate change. First, we assess the perceived importance of energy transition for the energy policy of each European country, and whether this is affecting the economy of their country. Second, we want to see how the development of including energy transition in government’s energy policies since the Paris agreement on climate change has developed. Third, by asking our respondents if they think governments in enough countries will act to reduce climate change, we are able to see where the most pessimistic experts are.
Rather than analysing public opinion, this paper makes use of the ifo World Economic Survey, quarterly economic expert survey that includes around 120 countries. This allows us to compare the findings from the European Union to the views from respondents in other regions in the world. In doing so, we can draw conclusions on the perceived development of energy transition and the associated economic costs. There is an emerging consensus that the transition to renewable energy systems is a key strategy to address climate change. However, maintaining economic competitiveness is critical and the economic costs associated with energy transition differ from country to country.
The Patterns behind the Pledges: Examining European States’ Climate Policies using Cluster Analysis
At the 2015 Paris climate conference, every state was required to submit a climate pledge of their own design. The Member States of the European Union (EU) submitted a collective pledge on behalf of all 28 states. While these internationally-facing climate documents revealed patterns of leadership and laggardness, we do not know the patterns of climate policy ambition that exist at the national level regarding the format, objectives and scope of policy approaches. What groupings exist regarding the climate policy ambitions of EU Member States, and how do these compare with the pledge put forward in Paris? To answer this question, we employ an innovative Cluster Analysis technique to find the patterns that exist behind the pledges. Cluster Analysis provides a unique analytical perspective, as it allows ‘hidden’ patterns to be identified, without pre-selecting which variables or groupings should be under investigation. We find that despite the ambitious collective target put forward by the EU at the Paris conference, a great deal of variation exists in the nature of Member States’ targets. If the EU is to meet its 2030 and 2050 emissions reductions pledges, domestic policy goals are likely to need to increase their ambitions in the near future significantly.