7 EU Climate Leadership? Europe’s Role in Global Climate Negotiations

in Climate Change and Cultural Transition in Europe
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This chapter analyses European climate leadership at the global climate negotiations of Copenhagen and the summits after Copenhagen, culminating in the successful adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. An analysis of the Union’s conduct on climate issues indicates that by setting an example, directional leadership has been the most important leadership mode of the European Union (EU). The chapter underscores that the EU is an important player shaping global climate policy, but shows that the Union’s leadership has come under pressure. Both the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 and global and European economic and political crises have weakened EU climate leadership in recent years. At the climate summits following Copenhagen, however, the EU managed to partially revive some of its leadership position. The chapter starts by presenting the analytical framework for the analysis of EU climate leadership by identifying three key conditions for the EU to be a successful leader in multilateral negotiations: preference cohesion (speaking with one voice), credibility, and opportunity. The chapter then illustrates that EU climate leadership came under duress in Copenhagen but has recovered since then. At the same time, EU leadership is still troubled by a number of challenges, which have to be addressed in order to safeguard and reinforce the European leadership role. For the future of climate policies and the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the EU’s role is all-important—especially in light of the position of US President Donald Trump on climate change. Looking ahead, in order to strengthen its leadership, the EU should play a key role in fostering the implementation of the Paris Agreement and in promoting it. Moreover, the EU should integrate pertinent measures to address climate change with the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) it enshrines.

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