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Governing the EU’s Climate and Energy Transition in Turbulent Times

European Union

Workshop Director
Claire Dupont
Ghent University
Workshop Co-Director
Diarmuid Torney
Dublin City University

When it comes to combating climate change, the question is no longer about the need to act, but rather about the choices to be made on how to act. Climate change is now predominantly an issue of governance choices (Bryner, 2008). The European Union has taken on an ever-stronger stance on climate governance over the years, leading to engagement to develop and implement a far-reaching transition towards a climate-neutral economy by 2050 (European Commission, 2018). It has declared itself an international leader on climate governance and has built up a body of policies internally to respond to the climate challenge (Bößner & van Asselt, 2017; Oberthür & Roche Kelly, 2008; Wurzel, Connelly, & Liefferink, 2017). Questions remain about how the EU can govern the climate and energy transition within a context of internal and external political, economic and social turbulence, and how these transition governance processes will affect its role in the world, now and into the future.

The central aim of this workshop is to assess the evolution of EU climate and energy governance against a backdrop of increasing urgency to move to decarbonisation, stagnating European integration, and broader global trends towards political, social and economic turbulence. We will bring together papers that examine how the EU is governing the climate and energy transition within this context, why it governs in this way, and how this affects its role in the world and the shape of European integration into the future.

Research on EU integration and EU politics, policy and law plays a major role in analysing the climate and energy governance challenges, but the terrain of these governance challenges is shifting.

First, we are ever more aware of the scale and urgency of the decarbonisation challenge. Stark warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlight the risks involved in exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, as well as the extent of the challenge facing humanity if we are to remain within that threshold (IPCC, 2018). According to the IPCC, the magnitude of transition needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees is “without documented historic precedent” (IPCC, 2018: p 22). Responding to this challenge, the European Commission elaborated, in November 2018, a pathway to climate neutrality by 2050 (European Commission, 2018). Scholarship has yet to reflect upon how this shifting of the goalposts impacts the EU’s climate and energy governance.

Second, the internal EU governance landscape has become significantly more challenging. There is important work on the EU’s internal climate governance processes (Boasson & Wettestad, 2013; Dupont, 2016; Jordan & Rayner, 2010; Oberthür & Pallemaerts, 2010; Ydersbond, 2018) and how such policy has continued through the financial and economic crises (Skovgaard, 2014). However, scholarship connecting climate governance to turbulent trends in governance is still in its infancy (Lockwood, 2018) and emerging work on the shape and future of the EU as a result of a conglomerate of internal and external challenging contexts has raised broad and urgent questions for the scholarly community (Börzel, 2016; Falkner, 2016; Schimmelfennig, 2018b).

Third, the broader global political landscape is much more turbulent than even five years ago. The election of populist and nativist politicians such as Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro in key global powers casts a shadow not just on global climate politics but on the rules-based multilateral order more generally. We have seen important work on the EU’s internal and external energy policy development (Goldthau & Sitter, 2015; Solorio, 2011) and considerable work on the EU’s role in international climate and wider environmental governance ( Adele, Biedenkopf & Torney, 2018; Bäckstrand & Elgström, 2013; Dupont, 2019; Oberthür & Roche Kelly, 2008; Torney, 2014, 2015), but scholarship has not yet adequately reflected on the implications of global political turbulence for EU climate and energy governance (and vice versa).

This workshop will make an important contribution to scholarship by not only addressing these three themes but also by analysing how they interact to shape the governance challenges facing climate and energy transition for the EU. Bridging the insights from scholarship on EU climate and energy governance with understanding of European integration processes within a context of EU and global turbulence remains a significant gap (Ansell, Trondal, & Morten Øgård, 2016; Rosamond, 2016). The climate and energy transition will need to be delivered despite the seeming precarity of the future of the European project and its place in the world. Internal and external challenges to the established order, including broad economic and social trends, perceived crises of (global) democracy and representation, and an erosion of trust in expertise, among others, are crucial trends that must be explored (Falkner, 2016; Kröger, 2014; Lockwood, 2018; Schimmelfennig, 2018a).

With this workshop, we therefore fill important gaps in this research field by bringing together papers that collectively: (1) take account of the urgency and scale of the transition to decarbonisation; (2) analyse changes in the internal EU governance context; (3) place the governance of the climate and energy transition within the context of broader global change and turbulence; and (4) connect these analyses to debates about the (future) shape and role of the EU in the world.

While papers are not expected to cover all of these aspects simultaneously, we seek a balance among the contributions to ensure that, taken together, the papers advance scholarship along the dimensions described above. This requires a mix of empirical studies and theoretical development. We expect papers to provide new insights through analyses of, for example:
- How and to what extent recent climate science assessments (e.g. IPCC, 2018) have shaped EU climate and energy governance responses;
- Recent developments in the evolution of the EU’s governance of climate and energy, including the enactment of the 2030 legislative package;
- How trends towards integration and disintegration are shaping EU climate and energy governance and vice versa, including the respective roles of the EU institutions and member states;
- The EU’s role in bilateral and multilateral climate diplomacy in the context of global trends towards turbulence discussed above.


Adelle, C., Biedenkopf, K. & Torney, D. eds. (2018), European Union External Environmental Policy: Rules, Regulation and Governance Beyond Borders. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Ansell, C., Trondal, J., & Morten Øgård. (2016). Turbulent Governance. In C. Ansell, J. Trondal, & Morten Øgård (Eds.), Governance in Turbulent Times. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bäckstrand, K., & Elgström, O. (2013). The EU’s role in climate change negotiations: from leader to ‘leadiator’. Journal of European Public Policy, 20(10), 1369–1386.

Boasson, E. L., & Wettestad, J. (2013). EU climate policy: industry, policy innovation and external environment. Farnham: Ashgate.

Börzel, T. A. (2016). From EU Governance of Crisis to Crisis of EU Governance: Regulatory Failure, Redistributive Conflict and Eurosceptic Publics. Journal of Common Market Studies, 54(May), 8–31.

Bößner, S., & van Asselt, H. (2017). EU climate leadership after Paris: rising to the challenge? CARISMA: Innovation for Climate Change Mitigation.

Bryner, G. C. (2008). Political science perspectives on climate policy. In H. Compston (Ed.), Turning down the heat: the politics of climate policy in affluent democracies (pp. 33–47). Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan.

Dupont, C. (2019). The EU's Collective Securitisation of Climate Change. West European Politics, 42(2), 369-390.

Dupont, C. (2016). Climate Policy Integration into EU Energy Policy: Progress and Prospects. London: Routledge.

Dupont, C., & Oberthür, S. (Eds.). (2015). Decarbonization in the European Union: Internal Policies and External Strategies. Houndmills: Palgrave MacMillan.

European Commission. (2018). A Clean Planet for All: A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy. COM(2018) 773.

Falkner, G. (2016). The EU’s problem-solving capacity and legitimacy in a crisis context: a virtuous or vicious circle? West European Politics, 39(5), 953–970.

Goldthau, A., & Sitter, N. (2015). Soft power with a hard edge: EU policy tools and energy security. Review of International Political Economy, 22(5), 941–965.

IPCC, 2018, Global Warming of 1.5 °C. Geneva: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Jordan, A., & Rayner, T. (2010). The evolution of climate policy in the European Union: an historical overview. In A. Jordan, D. Huitema, H. van Asselt, T. Rayner, & F. Berkhout (Eds.), Climate change policy in the European Union: confronting the dilemmas of mitigation and adaptation? (pp. 52–80). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kröger, S. (Ed.). (2014). Political Representation in the European Union: Still democratic in times of crisis? London: Routledge.
Lockwood, M. (2018). Right-wing populism and the climate change agenda: exploring the linkages. Environmental Politics, 27(4), 712–732.

Oberthür, S., & Pallemaerts, M. (Eds.). (2010). The New Climate Policies of the European Union: Internal Legislation and Climate Diplomacy. Brussels: VUB Press.

Oberthür, S., & Roche Kelly, C. (2008). EU Leadership in International Climate Policy: Achievements and Challenges. International Spectator, 43(3), 35–50.

Rosamond, B. (2016). Brexit and the Idea of European Disintegration. Journal of Contemporary European Research, 12(4), 864–871.

Schimmelfennig, F. (2018a). Brexit: differentiated disintegration in the European Union. Journal of European Public Policy, 25(8), 1154–1173.

Schimmelfennig, F. (2018b). European integration (theory) in times of crisis. A comparison of the euro and Schengen crises. Journal of European Public Policy, 25(7), 969–989.

Skovgaard, J. (2014). EU climate policy after the crisis. Environmental Politics, 23(1), 1–17.

Solorio, I. (2011). Bridging the Gap between Environmental Policy Integration and the EU’s Energy Policy: Mapping out the ‘Green Europeanisation’ of Energy Governance. Journal of Contemporary European Research, 7(3), 396–415.

Torney, D. (2014). External Perceptions and EU Foreign Policy Effectiveness: The Case of Climate Change. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies,

Torney, D. (2015), European Climate Leadership in Question: Policies toward China and India. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wurzel, R. K. W., Connelly, J., & Liefferink, D. (Eds.). (2017). The European Union in International Climate Change Politics: Still Taking a Lead? London: Routledge.

Ydersbond, I. M. (2018). Power through collaboration: Stakeholder influence in EU climate and energy negotiations. International Negotiation, 23(3), 478–514.

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