Passing the Scepter, not the Buck Long Arms in EU Climate Politics

  •  Doris Fuchs    
  •  Berenike Feldhoff    


This paper investigates power dynamics between and within the core institutions of the European Union (EU) in the development of the 2030 EU climate & energy framework. Starting from the widely studied change in the EU’s climate policy from “leadership by example” to “slow motion”, it integrates a specific focus on power dynamics between the core EU institutions and non-state actors. Interestingly, perspectives on power relations between and within EU institutions and the power of non-state actors in EU governance are rarely integrated explicitly in analyses of the EU’s shift in its stance on climate policy. In this article, we aim to draw together the analyses of institutional power dynamics in EU climate policy with analyses of the exercise of power by non-state actors to explain the dynamics leading to the change in EU climate politics. Using data from document research, secondary literature and interviews conducted with members of EU institutions as well as non-state actors, we show that an absence of clear leadership from the European Council in the end furthered an extended influence of business actors via the strengthening of the Commission as well as particular DGs. The results show how inadequate guidance from the Council and divisions within the Commission facilitated the informal passing of the scepter of EU climate policy to business, even as EU institutions retained formal responsibility, thus not passing the buck in a corresponding manner. The analysis further reveals strong reasons for doubt towards future EU ambitions in global climate change politics.

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