The New Climate Policies of the European Union

Internal Legislation and Climate Diplomacy
Sebastian Oberthuer
Marc Pallemaerts

Climate change has taken centre stage in European and international politics.  The fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in 2007, confirmed that climate change is one of the most serious threats to international security and the well-being of human kind.  At the European level, climate change has become a major agenda item regularly discussed by the European Council.  Internationally, the issue has become on of "high politics".  Since 2005, it has been a top priority of the G-8 Summits, and both the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly have placed it high on their agendas.  World leaders are rallying to achieve a new global deal to combat global warming under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Overall, there is hardly any high-level political encounter in which the issue is not discussed.

The European Union has established itself as the most prominent international leader on the issue.  It has been one of the most fervent supporters of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, striving to sustain its leadership in the efforts to reach a new global agreement post-2012.  The EU has also increasingly underpinned its international leadership position with domestic action.  Most prominently, it introduced a greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in 2005.  The period 2007-2008 saw a major overhaul and leap forward in the development of a renewed EU framework of policy and legislation to address climate change.  Most importantly, the new EU climate policies include a set of legislative acts adopted in early 2009 and known as the "climate and energy package" that is designed to achieve the EU's target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% and increasing the share of renewable energies to 20% by 2020.

This volume provides a timely overview and assessment of the development of the new EU climate policies with a focus on the new climate and energy package.  Are EU climate policies sufficient to meet the environmental, economic and political challenge posed by global climate change?  How do international and domestic climate policies of the EU interact and are they mutually supportive?  What are the prospects for the EU keeping its international leadership in the face of a more engaged US and increasingly assertive emerging economies?  In addressing these questions, the volume aims to enhance understanding and contribute to further discussions on the current and potential role of the EU in the flight against climate change.