Table of Contents

Research Handbook on Climate Governance

Research Handbook on Climate Governance

Edited by Karin Bäckstrand and Eva Lövbrand

The 2009 United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen is often represented as a watershed in global climate politics, when the diplomatic efforts to negotiate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol failed and was replaced by a fragmented and decentralized climate governance order. In the post-Copenhagen landscape the top-down universal approach to climate governance has gradually given way to a more complex, hybrid and dispersed political landscape involving multiple actors, arenas and sites. The Handbook contains contributions from more than 50 internationally leading scholars and explores the latest trends and theoretical developments of the climate governance scholarship.

Chapter 20: The European Union

Claire Dupont and Sebastian Oberthür

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation


This chapter argues that, despite the EU’s relatively advanced ambitions, its climate policies have so far remained insufficient to ensure the EU achieves its 2050 objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80–95 percent from 1990 levels (amounting to ‘decarbonization’). We first provide an historical account that demonstrates that the evolution of EU climate policies as embedded in international climate policy has nevertheless seen important advances and changes in approach over the years since 1990. Especially, binding EU measures have grown in the 2000s, with attention to incentives increasing later on. We include most recent developments in 2014. These trends are then related back to a limited number of internal and external barriers and driving forces that help us understand the status and development of EU climate policy, including broader EU and international politics, climate policy integration into other policy fields, division of competence between the EU and its member states, and relations with international partners. Overall, these factors do not lead us to expect the EU would soon bring its policies fully in line with its decarbonization objective, but they do leave room for the emergence of windows of opportunity for further progress.

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