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Differentiated Climate and Energy Integration at the National Level? Mapping EU Energy Union Policy Responses Via the NECPs

Comparative Politics
Environmental Policy
European Politics
European Union
Policy Analysis
Public Administration
Climate Change
Energy Policy
Paul Tobin
University of Manchester
Paul Tobin
University of Manchester
Brendan Moore
University of East Anglia

Abstract

During the 2000s, the European Union (EU) had assumed a pioneering position regarding climate change. However, the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit and a ‘conglomerate of crises’ dented its ambitions during the early-to-mid-2010s. In this context, the EU member states’ National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), required by the 2018 Energy Union Governance Regulation, may present an opportunity for the EU to transform its energy systems, alongside representing an important new governance tool for responding to the climate challenge. Under the Governance Regulation, each member state is obliged to submit a final NECP by the end of 2019, followed by biennial reports, with the Commission playing a key oversight role. The NECPs must respond to the five-pronged Energy Union objectives of energy security, market integration, energy efficiency, climate action, and research and competitiveness. As such, these documents collectively reflect a cornerstone of the EU’s long-term response to complex, overlapping, and highly politicised policy problems. We ask: what policy approaches have member states presented in their NECPs, and what do these tell us about the ambition of the EU’s collective response to climate change? To examine this question, we combine in-depth discourse analysis of the NECPs of five leading but dissimilar member states – Czechia, Germany, Poland, Spain and Sweden – with a medium-n Discourse Network Analysis of all 27 member states. This ‘dual mapping’ approach enables detailed policy analysis to be conducted of influential states that face differing challenges within the Energy Union, whilst also enabling a broader analysis of all 27 states to identify patterns across the EU. From here, we analyse our findings using the theoretical tools of polycentric governance, dis/integration, and the concept of a multi-speed Europe to provide critical reflections on the status of this new policy response to the urgent climate challenge.