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EU Climate Policy – From Rhetoric to Action

Elin Lerum Boasson & Jørgen Wettestad: EU Climate Policy: Industry, Policy Interaction and External Environment (18.01.2013) In the course of the past ten years, EU climate policy has gone from rhetoric to real and extensive action. This important change is the focus of a new book by FNI Research Professor Jørgen Wettestad and Elin Lerum Boasson at CICERO.

Climate politics has become a prestige project for EU, with power in important areas moving from national governments to EU headquarters in Brussels. Today, however, as the authors explain, EU climate policy is at a crossroads. The emissions trading system (ETS) needs fundamental improvements and the Renewables Directive is to be revised. Both these developments are likely to lead to new power struggles in the coming years.

Winds of change

With the financial crisis and stagnation at international climate negotiations, the EU is facing increasingly difficult background conditions for developing and implementing a strong climate policy.

Elin Lerum Boasson- The financial crisis makes it harder for leading renewables countries like Germany and Spain to continue to guarantee renewable energy a high price. It has been argued that the Swedish-Norwegian green certificate system could serve as a model for the development of EU policies, while the power sector prefers subsidies to be phased out in a few years, states Boasson.

Wind power is probably the renewable energy technology best able to weather the transition to an all-European certificate market – but so far, the wind-power industry has supported the German model, with price guarantees. Will they shift their stance?

What future for the EU climate cornerstone?

Serious changes are also facing the ETS – the very cornerstone of the EU climate policy, covering more than half of EU emissions.

Jørgen Wettestad- The seven years the system has been operational have not been unproblematic, notes Wettestad. Initial generosity in the distribution of allowances, followed by the financial crisis with reduced activity, has led to a surplus of allowances and a low price. Now the cornerstone is about to slip away. While a more streamlined system has now been introduced for the 2013-2020 phase, with more auctioning of allowances, more and more are asking: will the ETS survive?

The European Commission launched important proposals to further tighten the ETS in November 2012. In addition to a specific proposal to postpone the auctioning of some allowances, this involved a menu of six options for tightening the system more fundamentally. The postponement proposal is likely to be adopted, but getting a more fundamentally reformed system in place will requires a new window of opportunity for climate policy-making in the EU.

- There is a wildcard outside the EU: If President Obama brings forward a more powerful climate policy, that will weaken the argument that the EU on its own cannot lead an ambitious climate policy, including a high carbon price. Combined with the possibility of an improved economic situation and a new, comprehensive climate deal to be adopted in 2015, we can imagine a new window of opportunity opening for the EU to put in place a more permanent and strengthened ETS, argues Wettestad.

Book launch: 23 January in Oslo and
21 February in Brussels

Boasson and Wettestad's book, EU Climate Policy: Industry, Policy Interaction and External Environment will be launched with a seminar in Oslo 23 January and another in Brusssels 21 February.

Book endorsements

Andrew Jordan, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, UK:
'What the EU does and does not do in relation to climate change matters hugely to those who live within and well outside Europe. By drawing together a mass of fresh empirical evidence and carefully relating it to well-known policy theories, this book manages to derive some genuinely fresh and insightful explanations as to why the EU acts in the rather puzzling way it does. In what is now an increasingly crowded field of research, it stands out for its depth and quality of scholarship.'

Miranda A. Schreurs, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany:
'In this timely contribution, Boasson and Wettestad explain the development of four key policy pillars of the EU's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: carbon emissions trading, the promotion of renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, and energy efficiency in buildings. The book is theoretically and empirically of the highest quality.'

Sebastian Oberthür, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium:
'This book significantly advances our knowledge about EU climate policy not least by shedding light on the role of industry, policy interaction and external factors in policy development as well as through rich case studies, including on the central but understudied aspects of energy efficiency in buildings and renewable energy promotion. There can be no doubt that the book will take an important place in any collection on EU climate policy.'


Further information:
   Book presentation at the publisher's website
   Extensive presentation in Norwegian on CICERO's website
   Read more about FNI's research on European energy and environmental politics
   Contact person: Jørgen Wettestad
 The Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) is an independent foundation engaged in research on international environmental, energy, and resource management politics.
The Institute maintains a multi-disciplinary approach, with main emphasis on political science, economics, and international law.

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