For many years, the EU pursued the strategy of 'leading by example’ in international climate negotiations. However, since the Copenhagen climate summit, frictions inside the EU and a paradigm shift have become increasingly evident, write Severin Fischer and Oliver Geden of the influential German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). With the October 2014 compromise in the European Council on a new climate framework for 2030, the international climate negotiations have become less important to the EU and a more incremental domestic approach prevails. Fischer and Geden argue the time is ripe for a new EU climate narrative, not based anymore on top-down imperatives, but on a broad bottom-up approach that includes additional economic and security benefits of emission reductions.
Since the beginning of climate negotiations, the European Union (EU) has led efforts to move mitigation policies forward worldwide. Up to the notorious 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Copenhagen 2009, the EU clearly pursued a strategy of 'leading by example’. Europeans tried to come to a deal by taking unilateral decisions in advance of the negotiations, demonstrating their firm commitment to multilateral climate policy.
The disappointing outcome of COP 15 was one of several reasons why the EU changed its tack. Not only were Europeans feeling the delayed political impact of the EU’s eastern enlargement on climate policymaking and the short-term effects of the economic crisis, there was also open opposition to the EU’s 'frontrunner’ strategy from central actors within the EU. This was evident from the difficult discussions around the EU’s 2030 energy and climate strategy.
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