IES Research Projects: Climate policy integration in the European Union

This research project assesses the level of integration of climate policy objectives into other sectoral policies at the EU level. Climate change has become an issue of high political importance for the EU, both internally and externally. Since the 1990s, the EU has been striving to play an international leadership role in the fight against climate change. Its external leadership stance is, however, dependent on the credibility of its own internal ambitions and actions. Internal EU climate policy has developed in a step-wise fashion since the 1990s, but it is a policy area that increased both in scope and depth rather rapidly in the late 2000s. The adoption of the climate and energy package in 2009 committed the EU to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. This ambitious target was backed up by legislation in the area of energy, emissions from passenger cars, carbon capture and storage and emissions trading, which showed the potential for combating climate change in an integrated policy fashion.

As a tool for ensuring the credibility of action on climate change, integrating the objectives of climate policy into other relevant policy sectors holds much potential. Indeed, climate change as an issue cuts across many policy fields, including energy, transport, nature conservation, agriculture, water policy, industry, among others. Ensuring coherence across these policy sectors requires, at the very least, that climate objectives be taken into account in the formulation and implementation of these sector policies. To match with the international leadership ambition of the EU, we may even expect that climate policy objectives be given precedence or ‘priority’ over other policy objectives.

Many scholars assume that the EU has already taken some steps towards policy integration with the adoption of the integrated climate and energy package of policies in 2009. But just how integrated are climate policy objectives into sub-energy sectors in reality? This project, therefore, disputes the assumption that EU climate and energy policies are well integrated, and aims firstly to establish the level of climate policy integration in the EU by examining several sub-energy sector case studies. Secondly, the research will explain why such a level of policy integration exists and has developed, drawing on traditional theories of European integration. There is already an extensive literature on the concept of environmental policy integration; yet little focused research has been carried out on climate policy integration in particular, especially at the level of the EU. As such, this project can provide an in-depth analysis in an as yet under-researched field.

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