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The Hollowing-Out of British Climate Policy: National Indifference, European Leadership and Pioneer Cities

Jeremy Moulton

Since its rise to political saliency in the early 1990s, British governments have done much to establishthemselves as leaders in international climate change politics. However, this passion for international targetsand bold rhetoric has not been matched with a similar passion for domestic climate action. The widelyacknowledged failure of the 2010 coalition government to fulfil its pledge to be the 'greenest governmentever', frustrated the first genuine hopes that a British government could 'go green'. A governance gap hastherefore developed, leading to the claim that climate policy within the UK has 'hollowed out'. This paperexamines the extent to which hollowing out has occurred, with local government and the EU taking on themantle of policy pioneers in place of national governments. In doing so, this case will be linked to issues ofEuropean governance that have been brought to the fore through the eurozone crisis and show how, in atime of economic turmoil and renewed calls for national sovereignty, the EU can renew its legitimacy bytaking the popularity of the issue of climate change and the need for climate action and perform a functionwhich has received relatively little attention from successive British governments.

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