Full Steam Ahead or Dead in the Water? EU Environment and Climate Policies after the Crisis

Viviane Gravey, Brendan Moore

The 2007-2008 financial crisis and the ensuing Eurozone crisis have fuelled a growing research agenda on the effects of the crisis and austerity politics on European policy-making - from challenges to national welfare states to reform of European economic governance. Despite this research, we still know very little about the influence of the crisis on other policy sectors, especially environmental policy. This paper addresses this gap by investigating how the crisis influenced the European Union's environmental and climate policies - an area in which the EU has shown international leadership. But has the crisis reduced the EU's environmental ambition? This paper will analyse whether the crisis was a critical juncture that changed the course of EU environmental policy (toward greater or lower ambition).This question will be addressed in two ways. First, the paper will review efforts to revise EU environmental and climate policies since the early 2000s (most notably through the Better Regulation programmes). It will investigate whether environmental policies were important targets of these programmes, the direction of policy reform (expansion or dismantling), and whether these reform processes changed post-crisis. Second, the paper will compare reform outcomes of key EU environmental and climate policies before and after the crisis, using a modified version of Schaffrin et al.'s (2014) Index of Policy Ambition. Together, these results will clarify the EU's current level of environmental ambition, tracking whether it decreased, whether climate and environmental policies were affected differently, and whether changes to policy ambition are measurable in terms of processes or outputs.

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