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The European Union at the Copenhagen Climate Negotiations: A Case of Contested EU Actorness and Effectiveness

Lisanne Groen, Arne Niemann

The European Union at the Copenhagen climate negotiations: a case of contested EU actorness and effectivenessThis paper analyses the extent of European Union (EU) actorness and effectiveness at the fifteenth United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009. For over a decade the European Union has been characterised as a leader ininternational climate policy-making and as an important actor in international climate change negotiations. The COP15 meeting in Copenhagen has overall broughtabout disappointing outcomes, especially from the perspective of the European Union. This casts doubts on EU leadership and begs the question of what has happenedto EU actorness and effectiveness in this field?In terms of actorness we take Jupille and Caporaso (1998) as a point of departure and then specify a more parsimonious actorness framework that consists of (formal)authority, cohesion and autonomy (here more narrowly defined as freedom of action). Effectiveness (i.e. goal attainment) is seen as conceptually separate fromactorness. Effectiveness is conceptualised as the result of actorness conditioned by the 'opportunity structure', i.e. the external context (of other actors, events andideas) that enables or constrains EU actions (cf. Bretherton and Vogler 2006).We hold that the EU's actorness has been only moderate, especially given somewhat limited formal authority and value cohesion. In terms of the opportunity structure atCopenhagen we argue that the high degree of politicisation at the final negotiation stage among the heads of state and government constrained the EU's ability tonegotiate and thus to attain its goals. Another external factor that had a substantial adverse impact on the EU's effectiveness at the Copenhagen negotiations was thestrong involvement of other actors with rather different positions, like the United States and the BASIC countries.

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