East-West Regional Dimensions in European Climate Policy

  • Thomas Spencer (University of Edinburgh und IDDRI)
  • Dora Fazekas
  • Simone Cooper (Climate Strategies)
  • Tim Laing (LSE)

Approaches to redistribute the costs of climate policy (effort sharing) have been central to EU climate change policy since its inception in the early 1990s. This is both due to the nature of the problem, which inherently involves (re-)distributing costs between sectors, jurisdictions and generations, and the nature of the EU. This paper surveys the effort sharing approaches taken over the course of EU climate policy, since its early efforts to agree to the distribution of a common EU Kyoto target among member countries to the 2008 Climate and Energy Package. In so doing, the paper aims to draw lessons learned for other jurisdictions and the EU itself as they develop and implement climate change policies. The paper comes to several central conclusions: Firstly, climate policy negotiation in the EU takes place within an enormously complex web of other policies and interests, allowing space for (implicit) bargaining that is unlikely to exist in other international settings. Secondly, a central difficulty over the history of EU effort sharing has been the harmonisation of climate policy across multiple, overlapping climate regimes, including the Kyoto Protocol, the Burden Sharing Agreement between the EU 15, and the European ETS. This overlap led to linkages and disharmonies that proved difficult to reconcile. Thirdly, the EU''s climate policy has moved gradually towards more centralised modes of governance; this has facilitated the harmonisation and effectiveness of ambitious climate policies, but at the cost of derogations, which have potentially weakened harmonised instruments such as the ETS. Overall, the balance appears positive, however, as EU effort sharing approaches have allowed member countries to go further than they would in a purely domestic context. Ultimately, the EU's effort sharing policies need to be seen in the difficult context of shared competences between the EU and member countries in the energy sector, and conflicting EU principles of the internal market and solidarity, which implies a differentiated approach to fundamental economic reform.