Panel 407: Late-/Post-Crisis European Environmental Policy
Late-/Post-Crisis European Environmental Policy
The 2008 Global Financial Crisis and the subsequent Eurozone Crisis held the potential to transform the previously ambitious trajectory of environmental ambition demonstrated in Europe. While the Crisis may appear to be ostensibly over for many, a new context for European environmental policy-makers has been created. This panel seeks to explore how this new arena is impacting upon environmental performance. First, Brendan Moore contextualises the panel by providing a comprehensive analysis of European Union (EU) climate policy during 1988-2018, by employing and developing the Index of Policy Activity (IPA). Second, Simona Davidescu likewise uses the IPA, by qualitatively analysing the Romanian environmental policy – and its dismantling – between 2008 and 2018. Third, Rosa Fernandez shifts the focus from Eastern to Western Europe by examining post-crisis environmental policy in Spain, highlighting the ongoing instability that lingers in the country. Finally, Sewerin et al. compare the EU with the policy stances of the USA towards lithium-ion batteries, and particularly with regards to the cases of the UK and California. This panel therefore provides an intricate exploration of the new policy context that exists in a late-/post-crisis, yet uncertain, Europe.
Presentations of the Symposium
Measuring EU Climate Policy Ambition over the Long Term (1988-2018)
It has been thirty years since the European Commission’s first communication on climate change in 1988, and the literature on EU policy on the topic has increased alongside the increasingly complex climate acquis. This paper takes a step back to measure the policy density (number of policies) and policy intensity (the ambition level of those policies) using the Index of Policy Activity. Recently published research has examined six prominent climate policy instruments over a sixteen-year period and the effect that the economic crisis beginning in 2008 had on these policies. This paper expands on that analysis, using the IPA to study all EU policy instruments classified as related to climate change from 1988 to 2018. This allows for a long-term examination of policy density and intensity over that time period.
In addition to the expansion in scope, this paper explores modifications to the IPA coding system to make it more appropriate for the EU context (e.g. by integrating topics such as whether targets are binding at member state level and whether the European Commission has the power to fine governments in conjunction with the Court of Justice of the European Union). These modifications will allow other scholars to undertake similar analysis with the IPA at EU level and build a more detailed comparative literature on EU policy density and intensity over time.
Romania's environmental policy in times of crisis
This paper employs qualitative analysis to apply the Index of Policy Activity (IPA) to a relative newcomer to the European Union, Romania. The paper analyses renewable energy legislation, and finds that the unexpected success of Romania in this policy area is actually a case of ‘reluctant and accidental compliance’ over the period 2008–18. The chapter reveals a case of active, high visibility dismantling from 2013 onwards, which domestic politicians consistently linked to the economic crisis. However, the analysis suggests that past legacies, sloppy and vague policy formulation, and lack of learning were actually the real drivers of policy failure in Romania and therefore of policy dismantling.
Post-crisis Environmental Policies in Spain
The economic crisis of 2007-2008 unveiled a series of structural problems in the Spanish economy, still struggling to completely recover. Environment protection was downgraded as policy priority, and the country was classified as ‘laggard’ as opposed to the front-runner it had become in previous decades. The crisis reduced the ambition of existing policies on climate change and biodiversity, but more importantly, saw undeniable policy dismantling in the area of renewable energy. Some of the measures approved during the crisis have proved to be in contradiction of the EU targets set up through the Energy Union package, so it becomes apparent that Spain needs a change of direction on energy and environmental policy. However, the crisis partly triggered new political movements and the country is still under great political instability, mostly linked to corruption cases and the separatist movement in Catalonia. A motion of no confidence has seen a change of presidency, now in the hands of the Socialist Party, with uncertain consequences in the area of environmental policy. This paper will try to analyse if the changes brought by this new government (such as the creation of a Ministry for Ecological Transition) are likely to be kept in the longer term (given the existing demands for new elections), and if they are going in the right direction.
European Industry Policy after the Crisis: Localizing Battery Production in Europe
Electricity systems are rapidly transforming. With the recent advent of cheap(er) and more efficient energy storage technologies (Schmuch et al. 2018; Stephan et al. 2016), particularly in the form of lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery cells, the economics of the electricity system will shift further (Malhotra et al. 2016). This shift will very likely be to the detriment of powerful incumbent economic actors. Crucially, Li-ion cells will also profoundly impact other energy sectors, particularly the transport sector: here, the world market for battery and hybrid electric vehicles is growing rapidly, testing the resilience of the automotive industry, a cornerstone of the economy in Europe and the US with a high share of GDP generated and, even more importantly, high numbers of jobs (Beuse et al. 2018). To seize the opportunities of a future mega-industry, the US and Europe want to catch-up with East Asian manufacturers that have been successful in improving performance and cost of batteries (Beuse et al. 2018). For policy-makers, there is thus a triple challenge of dealing with the further disruption of the economics of the electricity system, the potential disruption of the automotive industry, while at the same time fostering the localization of battery manufacturing industry outside of East Asia.
In our paper, we aim at bringing together technology innovation studies and policy design literature to assess current policy mixes targeting Li-ion batteries. We argue that Li-ion batteries can be regarded as “dually complex” (Huenteler et al. 2016), i.e. a technology that is complex both in design and manufacturing. Such technologies pose a particular challenge for designing effective policy mixes that aim at localizing a manufacturing industry. Based on our previous research on technology characteristics (Beuse et al. 2018; Huenteler et al. 2016), we introduce six technology-specific (or “technology-smart”) policy design features that affect the localization of battery manufacturing industries outside of East Asia. Empirically, we compare, over time (1998 to present), the policy mixes of two large, (quasi-)federal political entities, the US and EU. To also include policy dynamics at the sub-federal level, we include California and the UK as well. Doing so, we contribute to fostering our understanding of how policy mixes addressing emerging and potentially disruptive technologies actually develop over time. Our approach and empirical findings have wide implications for theories of regulation, governance and public policy by highlighting the importance of technology-inherent characteristics for policy design choices.