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  • Author: Heather Grabbe, Stefan Lehne
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Europe’s “‘man on the moon’ moment” was how European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke on December 11, 2019, of the European Green Deal, a comprehensive program for a fair transition to a low-carbon economy.1 Rarely has the EU undertaken such an ambitious project requiring such a massive mobilization of resources and fundamental changes to most of its policies. The political momentum behind the transition is strong because the vast majority of Europeans, especially young ones, feel a sense of urgency to take action to prevent catastrophe. But political obstacles will rise again as the EU starts to implement practical measures. The union already has a long track record of climate change policy, both as a leader of international climate diplomacy and through the creation of laws and innovative policies such as the Emissions Trading Scheme. However, its efforts have suffered from significant deficits. Clashing interests of member states, some of which still heavily depend on coal, and industrial lobbies raising concerns about international competitiveness and jobs have constrained the EU’s ambitions. Insufficient mechanisms for monitoring and compliance have handicapped the implementation of these policies. The ongoing fragmentation of Europe’s political scene poses additional hurdles. Divisions between Eastern and Western Europe and Northern and Southern Europe hinder efficient decisionmaking. Populist parties already are mobilizing resistance to the necessary policies. Under these circumstances, the EU’s traditional method of depoliticizing difficult issues and submitting them to long technocratic discussions is unlikely to deliver results. To sustain democratic consent, there is no alternative to building public support for a fair climate transition and to deepening democratic engagement.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Politics, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union