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EU climate policy: industry, policy interaction and external environment

Book Review by Susannah Fisher: EU Climate Policy: Industry, Policy Interaction and External Environment by Elin Lerum Boasson and Jørgen Wettestad, Ashgate. January 2013.

This book, EU Climate Policy: Industry, Policy Interaction and External Environment, examines EU climate policy-making in four key areas: emissions trading schemes, renewables, carbon capture and storage, and energy policy for buildings. Drawing on qualitative research it seeks to address the questions of how and why certain policies have taken shape in the ways they have, and attempts to draw out “accounts never told before”. The book looks at three angles in particular to understand EU climate policy development – these are the role of industry, how policies interact and the role of the external environment.The book applies three theoretical approaches to European integration – liberal inter-governmentalism, new institutionalism and multi-level governance – and seeks to apply these to understand the paths between the three angles the book focuses on and the actual policy outcomes.

The emergence of the European Trading Scheme (ETS) after long internal debate in the EU is one of the main case studies. The authors describe how after the failed efforts in the 1990s on carbon taxes and generally weak commitment to a common climate policy this development of the ETS as a flagship project was ‘revolutionary’.

Until 1997 the EU had opposed flexible climate policy instruments. However, in 1998 it started to develop an internal system for trading and a Directive in 2003 set out the main rules. After some challenges in the early stages due to too many allowances and a low carbon price, the system was revised and the streamlined ETS was finally adopted in 2009. The revised system has a centralised character of a “single European market” and was the approach being championed by the European Commission even for the earlier system.

The authors apply their framework and conclude that industry and policy interactions were of minimal importance in the adoption of this policy whilst the external environment acted as a useful stimulus for EU officials who acted as policy entrepreneurs to secure the development. The EU officials conducted a sustained campaign to first set up the system and then to revise it along the lines they had originally proposed, the authors describe this as “tortoise entrepreneurship”.

Another case study is the emergence of the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) EU policy. CCS was a relative newcomer to EU climate policy which had initially focused on carbon pricing, energy efficiency and renewable energy but by 2008 CCS was a central part of the EU climate response. In comparison to other climate policy approaches, the response to CCS is highly centralised and consists of technological development with a focus on engineering.

Read the full text of the review on LSE Review of books

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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