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The role of the European Commission (2004- 2009) in global climate change politics - "could do better"

Pamela Barnes

Since the late 1980s the EU has gained a significant reputation as a leader in global climate change politics with much credit for this being given to the work of the European Commission. Yet the EU's leadership in this crucial area is highly dependent on the political dynamics within the European Commission and between the European Commission and the national governments. It is however evident that a clear discontinuity exists between the ambition of the European Union to maintain the global leadership position and the lack of effective internal climate change policy. The Barroso Commission has been characterised and criticised for giving economic development priority and not supporting or promoting the leadership of the EU in global climate change politics. It was not until 2007 when the issue of climate change was linked to the challenges being faced by the EU as a result of the quest for energy security that more radical proposals by the European Commission were considered to achieve greater internal policy coherence. But what needs to be done? Is a new climate change Treaty for the EU, incorporating more supranational powers for the European Commission to act on behalf of the EU, required? Undoubtedly the answer should be yes, but highly unlikely! Instead this paper poses the question of what form acceptable policy and institutional changes should take in order to enable the EU to retain its credibility as global leader, able to withstand the challenges from other obstructive negotiators (the US) and emergent ones (China).

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