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The Devil is in the Details: Governing Climate Change Through Policy Monitoring in the EU?

European Union
Governance
Policy Analysis
Public Administration
Public Policy
Climate Change
Comparative Perspective
Energy Policy
Jonas Schoenefeld
Technische Universität Darmstadt
Jonas Schoenefeld
Technische Universität Darmstadt

Abstract

Facing increasing turbulence and disunity at home and abroad, the EU has turned to soft governance arrangements, and especially policy monitoring, in order to progress in the urgency to address climate change. Enshrined in the Energy Union, the EU’s review-based governance approach mirrors the novel processes of the 2015 Paris Agreement. But practices of climate/energy policy monitoring and review remain surprisingly under-researched. While some scholars have stressed their importance (e.g., Aldy 2014; 2018) others have highlighted the EU’s difficulties in implementing robust policy monitoring systems (Hildén et al., 2014; Schoenefeld et al., 2018), suggesting that the latter are neither self-implementing nor apolitical or merely technical (Schoenefeld et al., 2019/forthcoming). This paper advances climate policy monitoring studies by proposing a new analytical framework. Based on Laswell (1965), it proposes to unpack the politics of policy monitoring by analysing who monitors, how, what, why, when, with what effect, and with what challenges. In a second step, the paper empirically applies the new framework to three key climate policy monitoring efforts in the EU, namely those emerging from the Energy Efficiency Directive, the Renewable Energy Directive, and the Monitoring Mechanism Regulation. It demonstrates that the monitoring regimes are set up differently in each case, and that definitions of the subject of monitoring (i.e., public policies) either differ or are even entirely absent. The findings unpack what the EU construes as climate/energy policy, what it is doing to monitor them, and what sort of insights monitoring produces. Originally proposed as an approach to circumvent difficult political decisions (i.e., agreeing on specific policies), this paper suggests that policy monitoring is more political and challenging than hitherto assumed. The extent to which the current governance design is capable of delivering the 2030 targets in the EU and indeed the Paris Agreement thus remains an open question.