The EU and its Member States have had a substantive and institutional influence on the UN environmental institutions UNEP and UNFCCC. While the European Community was a bit behind at the time of the introduction of UNEP (1972), the EU conversely assumed a leadership position when it came to the formation of the UNFCCC in the 1990s. Since ‘Copenhagen’ (2009) the EU has moved away from its ambition of legally binding instruments towards softer yet universal agreements, such as the Paris Climate Agreement and the UN Agenda 2030, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). EU and Member State cooperation in these international institutions is mainly driven by legal (shared) competences, but it is also the result of political pragmatism. By means of the unusual arrangements, as well as the Treaties, the Member States are keen to keep their discretionary autonomy on fiscal issues, land use and energy mix choices.
Ries Kamphof, Thijs Bonenkamp, Joren Selleslaghs and Madeleine O. Hosli
Energy and climate change are salient topics in the external relations of the European Union (EU) and its individual Member States. Both energy and climate are policy areas falling under the scope of ‘shared competences’. The Treaties, however, do not stipulate external competences. As a result, the ‘shared external competences’ in energy and climate change generate different effects in practice. This is partly due to substance: climate action constitutes a global common goods challenge, whereas energy security is more of a national concern, largely being demarcated by Member State sovereignty. There are also important ‘trade-offs’ and linkages between these two areas. Institutionally, differences exist, since there is a universal (Paris) agreement on climate change mitigation, while such an agreement is absent in the areas of global energy (security). Future research should aim to combine the analysis of EU and Member State external action on energy and climate change, as these agendas are aligned and sometimes respective policy avenues contradict each other. Furthermore, research could focus on the effects of other actors, such as the private sector, local authorities, populist parties or major third parties, such as Russia, on the external policies, institutional framework and global scope of the actions of the EU.