Coherent Policy More Important Than Ever: The Paris Summit and Climate Policy Integration

Claire Dupont |

A quick glance at the many issues on the table of the international climate negotiations points to the myriad facets of our everyday lives that are intertwined with the climate change problem. Whether it is how we produce our food, our energy, our means of transport, or how we manage financial flows, technology transfer or preserve natural resources across the planet, climate change is not a simple environmental problem with a single, straightforward solution. Any policy to combat or adapt to climate change must be part of a holistic view of how all policies and aspects of society must adapt – and this at all levels of governance.

There is a growing academic literature examining the reality and potential of climate policy integration to meet precisely this challenge of holistic policy-making.[1] Much of this literature builds on the vast body of work on environmental policy integration (EPI),[2] even though EPI as a concept never received definitional consensus. This imprecision may have made it easier for policymakers, especially at EU level, to champion EPI.[3] However, EPI never lived up to its potential, with measures fizzling out and business-as-usual continuing among compartmentalised policy departments. Since the mid-2000s, policy and academic interest has moved to analyse climate policy integration.

Climate policy integration (CPI) is largely synonymous with climate mainstreaming, and involves taking climate policy objectives into account in policy-making across other sectors. Whether climate policy objectives receive priority in policy-making or not may depend on political commitment, but given the life-changing nature of the climate problem, there is a case for climate policy objectives gaining precedence over other short-term policy goals.[4] Where environmental policy integration has fallen short in practice, climate policy integration is expected to succeed – due, for example, to the clear objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the common sense approach of combating climate change through policies in the sectors that cause the problem in the first place.

In my recently published book Climate Policy Integration into EU Energy Policy: Progress and Prospects (London: Routledge), I examine the EU’s record on integrating climate policy with energy policy. With the 2009 ‘integrated climate and energy package’ of policy measures, climate policy integration seemed well entrenched in EU policy-making. Rather than building on this assumption, I questioned it, and in the book I describe an in-depth analysis of climate policy integration into three energy policies – on renewable energy, energy performance of buildings, and external gas infrastructure.

The research presented in the book paints a mixed picture of integrating climate policy with EU energy policy. Although energy policies responding to the climate challenge were strengthened over the course of the first decade of the 21st century, this did not necessarily lead to improvements in CPI. None of the energy policies examined demonstrated high levels of CPI. Even the best case of renewable energy policy demonstrated between medium and high levels of CPI in the policy process in 2009, but only low to medium levels of CPI in the policy output. When considering the policy measures from the perspective of achieving the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 per cent by 2050 – the goal agreed by EU heads of state and government in October 2009[5] – the policies remain insufficient. Even policy proposals for an EU climate and energy framework for 2030 leave much of the work to the remaining two decades to 2050. As the time to 2050 closes, these improvements in policy do little to close the gap to the pledged emissions reductions. In this domain, the EU seems to be engaged in a constant game of trying to catch up on its own ambitions.

Climate negotiators and policymakers at all levels of governance across the globe can learn from the experiences of the EU. The importance of high-level political commitment to climate change, the need for policymakers to recognise the interactions among policy sectors, the understanding of how the policy process affects the level of CPI, and a clear analysis of particular institutional contexts are elements that can affect CPI. The EU should also consider its desire to play a leading role in the fight against climate change – without ambitious internal action and a better record on climate policy integration, its ‘leadership’ lacks credibility. No matter how ambitious the EU’s policy goals are, the EU is clearly struggling to implement holistic policy measures leading to its low-carbon goals for 2050.

Whatever the outcome of the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, the implementation of global solidarity and commitments will require joined-up and integrated policy-making at all governance levels.

[1] Camilla Adelle and Duncan Russel, “Climate Policy Integration: A Case of Déjà Vu?,” Environmental Policy and Governance 23, no. 1 (2013): 1–12; Claire Dupont and Sebastian Oberthür, “Insufficient Climate Policy Integration in EU Energy Policy: The Importance of the Long-Term Perspective,” Journal of Contemporary European Research 8, no. 2 (2012): 228–247.

[2] William M Lafferty and Eivind Hovden, “Environmental Policy Integration: Towards an Analytical Framework,” Environmental Politics 12, no. 5 (2003): 1–22; Andrew Jordan and Andrea Lenschow, “Environmental Policy Integration: A State of the Art Review,” Environmental Policy and Governance 20, no. 3 (2010): 147–158.

[3] EEA, Environmental Policy Integration in Europe: State of Play and Evaluation Framework.  EEA Report No 2/2005 (Copenhagen: European Environment Agency, 2005).

[4] Dupont and Oberthür, “Insufficient Climate Policy Integration in EU Energy Policy: The Importance of the Long-Term Perspective.”

[5] European Commission, “Communication from the Commission. A Roadmap for Moving to a Competitive Low Carbon Economy in 2050,” COM(2011) 112 (2011).