'Non-cooperative Federalism' in Belgium and the Politics of Climate Change

Katja Biedenkopf, Kelsey van Maris

The proposed paper will analyse the politics of climate change in Belgium. The country attempted to adopt a national climate policy for 6 years until it finally, on 4 December 2015, reached a compromise between the country's different regionalgovernments and the federal one. The deadlock and difficulties to agree on the responsibilities for investing in renewable energy infrastructure and the distribution of revenues from the EU Emissions Trading System were subject to highly controversial negotiations in the context of an exceedingly complex federal system and tense interregional relations. The paper will trace the process of the negotiations leading to the Belgian 'climate deal' by analysing the political discourse and tensions that accompanied it. It is argued that the international context of the UNFCCCnegotiations and the European Union's climate policy review process exerted external political pressure on Belgian actors, contributing to the eventual brokering of a deal and explaining its timing. Yet, national and in particular subnational politics also played an important role. The politics of climate change in Belgium cannot not exclusively be explained by the country's size and relatively small share of global greenhouse gas emissions. The institutional context of its complex 'non-cooperative' federal system provides an additional and probably more important explanation.An analytical framework bringing together external and internal pressures and constraints, including the ones mentioned above, will be developed to analyse the specific Belgian context with its unique federal system in which climate change is, to a significant extent, a competence of the regions rather than the national government. The interaction amongst international, national and regional factors will be conceptualised. The empirical analysis of this interaction amongst the different levels of governance will be based on the analysis of the political discourse of the key actors over time, expert interviews and process tracing.

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