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For as long as the EU has had a policy on climate change, transport has stood out as an anomalous sector. Between 1995 and 2004, greenhouse gas emissions across the EU declined by 5 per cent but grew by 26 per cent in the transport sector (COM (2007) 856: 2). As noted in Chapter 4, the sector’s position is still anomalous today. Indeed, as the EU’s climate policies have expanded, so too has the perception that the EU’s ability to decarbonise – which by the 2000s had been elevated to one of its most significant strategic ambitions – may well stand or fall on the basis of what is achieved in the transport sector, and especially the road transport sector (ten Brink, 2010: 180–181), which today still accounts for around 70 per cent of overall transport emissions (COM (2016) 501: 2).
Policy designers are seeking to adopt more durable climate policies that not only endure but remain influential over the long term. Amongst target groups and other relevant actors, such policies seek to nurture a belief that deep decarbonisation will happen and that they should prepare for that possibility rather than working to prevent it. Schattschneider (1935), who we quoted at the start of Chapter 1, implied that some policies become durable because they foster and sustain their own political support base through processes of positive policy feedback but may remain vulnerable to negative policy feedbacks that render them fragile.
Chapter 3 described the design space in which EU climate policies have emerged. It revealed an ongoing game of design that has simultaneously worked across and involved many different actors, governance levels and policy elements. One of the most significant policy design dynamics has been the one connecting programmatic goals and specific policy designs. In general, longer-term goals set at EU level to match international-level processes centred on the UNFCCC have been gradually back-filled with policy programmes and policy instruments.
Policy designers are actively searching for more durable climate policy designs to deliver deep decarbonisation. In Chapter 1, we noted that the existing distribution of resources and actor preferences in this area means that durable policies have proven immensely difficult to design in the past. Many difficult design choices and dilemmas will need to be confronted to ensure that future policies are more durable and more effective. These choices relate to the packaging together of various internal elements to produce an overall design that generates and is in turn sustained by positive policy feedback.
The concept of emissions trading has been actively debated by economists since the 1960s (Dales, 1968; Voss, 2007). In the 1990s, it began to attract the attention of large businesses in the EU, who were eager to investigate whether it offered a politically more palatable alternative to the Commission’s default policy instrument – regulation. By the late 1990s – and buoyed by growing industry support – a small number of Member States began to adopt their own greenhouse gas trading schemes at the national level to bolster their existing policy instrument mixes which, at the time, were also heavily reliant on regulation and, in some cases, voluntary agreements (Wurzel et al., 2013). The early 2000s were a period of intense activity for EU climate and energy policy, much of it directed at implementing the EU’s increasingly ambitious long-term emission reduction goals (see Chapter 3). Internationally, emissions trading had been included in the recently ratified Kyoto Protocol. With other policy instrument options such as an EU carbon/energy tax seemingly unavailable, the Commission seized the opportunity to create an EU-wide trading system.
The use of biofuel as a type of renewable energy dates back to the dawn of the global car industry in the nineteenth century. The attractiveness of biofuels derives from their ability to function as a drop-in alternative to fossils fuels such as petrol and diesel. According to the International Energy Agency, if the world is to stay within 2 °C of warming, annual production of transport biofuels must treble between 2017 and 2030 (Raval, 2018). The promotion of renewable energy has been actively discussed in the EU for many decades. But in the late 1990s, a period when EU climate and energy policies were evolving rapidly (see Chapter 3), the EU did not have a coherent, Europe-wide policy to promote the use of biofuels. So, the Commission began to prepare the ground, formulating fresh proposals for an EU-level policy to ramp up domestic production and use. The transport sector was an obvious target, the assumption being that from a technological perspective, greater biofuel use would not be overly disruptive.
Following the landmark Paris agreement, policy makers are under pressure to adopt policies that rapidly deliver deep, society-wide decarbonisation. Deep decarbonisation requires more durable policies, but not enough is known about if and how they actually emerge. This book provides the first systematic analysis of the determinants of policy durability in three high-profile areas: biofuel production, car transport, and industrial emissions. It breaks new ground by exploring how key European Union climate policies have shaped their own durability and their ability to stimulate supportive political dynamics in society. It combines state-of-the-art policy theories with empirical accounts of landmark political events such as 'Dieselgate' and the campaign against 'dirty' biofuels, to offer a fresh understanding of how and why policy makers set about packaging together different elements of policy. By shining new light on an important area of contemporary policy making, it reveals a rich agenda for academic researchers and policy makers.
Climate change is often described as a wicked policy problem par excellence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made the scientific case for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to effectively zero by the middle of this century (‘net zero’ emissions), most recently in its 2018 special report on the most likely impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5°C (IPCC, 2018: 1). That report effectively underlined the need for ‘rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ (IPCC, 2018: 1). The economic rationale for adopting such a radically different trajectory of human development is well known. So why – to paraphrase Nicholas Stern (2015), one of the world’s leading climate economists – is the world still waiting for deep and rapid decarbonisation to occur?
This chapter explores how policy designers in the European Union (EU) have addressed the challenge of climate change. In particular, it outlines the broad design space in which they have sought to create and sustain more durable policies. Starting with the broad aims of EU climate policy and then moving down to the establishment of particular aims, objectives and instruments, it reveals what design decisions were made, by whom and for what purpose. In particular, it focuses on how, when and why designers built durability and flexibility devices into their policy packages. Much of the previous work on policy durability and feedback has, as we noted in Chapter 1, concerned policies and design spaces that have a strongly distributive character. Therefore, Section 3.2 begins by exploring the nature of climate change as a distinct policy problem (Rosenbloom et al., 2019: 169), pinpointing how the design challenges (and hence design spaces) differ from those in national social and welfare state policy. Section 3.3 builds on these insights by summarising the main instrument choices that were made in EU environmental policy in the past. In doing so, it reveals what Howlett and Cashore (2009: 39) would characterise as the EU’s ‘policy instrument logic’. Although there are well-known theoretical advantages of selecting from the full array of instruments (Jordan et al., 2003: 12–16), we demonstrate that the EU has a strong preference for regulatory instruments. Our analysis then moves along the instrument continuum introduced in Chapter 1, i.e. starting with regulation and ending with voluntary action. Section 3.4 focuses on the historical evolution of EU climate policy since the late 1970s, noting how climate policies have incorporated different combinations of durability and flexibility devices. Finally, Section 3.5 summarises the main points about design choices and spaces in the EU.
Policy durability is regularly identified as a critical ingredient in society’s response to the wicked policy challenge of climate change. Over the course of the last three decades, many climate and energy policies have been adopted. In fact, in Chapter 1 we noted that climate change probably constitutes one of the most active sub-areas of environmental policy making. However, we also noted another, more ‘inconvenient truth’ about climate governance: that a surprisingly large number of climate policies are not sufficiently durable or effective enough (van Renssen, 2018). Indeed, climate policy is widely regarded as being especially susceptible to weakening and reversal (Rosenbloom et al., 2019: 168), because it generally targets powerful vested interest groups and does not deliver immediate and visible policy benefits to voters.