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Abstract

Most observers argue that this agreement is a step in the right direction. However, we do not know how effective it will be in terms of reducing emissions. We therefore discuss its potential effectiveness regarding EU climate policies and carbon markets. We argue that the Paris Agreement may have a positive effect but uncertainties abound.
Politics and Governance, 2016, Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 188-196 188
Politics and Governance (ISSN: 2183-2463)
2016, Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 188-196
doi: 10.17645/pag.v4i3.652
Article
The Paris Agreement: Consequences for the EU and Carbon Markets?
Steinar Andresen *, Jon Birger Skjærseth, Torbjørg Jevnaker and Jørgen Wettestad
The Fridtjof Nansen Institute, 1326 Lysaker, Norway; E-Mails: steinar.andresen@fni.no (S.A.),
jon.b.skjaerseth@fni.no (J.B.S.), tj@fni.no (T.J.), jorgen.wettestad@fni.no (J.W.)
* Corresponding author
Submitted: 20 April 2016 | Accepted: 13 July 2016 | Published: 8 September 2016
Abstract
Most observers argue that this agreement is a step in the right direction. However, we do not know how effective it will
be in terms of reducing emissions. We therefore discuss its potential effectiveness regarding EU climate policies and
carbon markets. We argue that the Paris Agreement may have a positive effect but uncertainties abound.
Keywords
carbon markets; effectiveness, EU; leadership; Paris Agreement
Issue
This article is part of the issue Climate Governance and the Paris Agreement”, edited by Jon Hovi and Tora Skodvin
(University of Oslo, Norway).
© 2016 by the authors; licensee Cogitatio (Lisbon, Portugal). This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribu-
tion 4.0 International License (CC BY).
1. Introduction
The Paris Agreement attracted unprecedented media
attention and was hailed by its creators as well as
many observers as a watershed event, instrumental in
contributing to a much-needed green global transition.
Meeting in New York on April 22, the countries of the
world demonstrated their overwhelming support for
the Agreementa strong signal of growing interna-
tional commitment. It remains to be seen, however,
whether these good intentions will translate into actual
emissions reductions. Experiences from more than 25
years of UN climate diplomacy indicate that this is by
no means self-evident: greenhouse gas (GHG) emis-
sions today are more than 50% higher than when the
UNFCCC was adopted in 1992 (Andresen, 2015). Will
the Paris Agreement be able to break this trend?
That gives rise to the tricky question of how to
measure the effects of international institutionshow
and to what extent do they contribute to problem-
solving effectiveness (Underdal, 2002)? Careful pro-
cess-tracing is required, as behavior may be the result
of various other factors than the regime in question.
This methodological approach can be applied when an-
alyzing the climate regime from its initiation until the
present. But, with the ink hardly dry on the Paris
Agreement (hereafter: PA), the best we can do now is
to discuss its potential effectiveness.
Here we have chosen to discuss the potential effect
on the EU and international carbon markets, with spe-
cific attention to the EU emissions trading system (EU
ETS) as the biggest market so far. While the former
case illustrates the impact on climate policy in general,
the latter case shows how this plays out as to a specific
policy-instrument. Our choice of the EU may be con-
sidered a “critical case”, given its role as front-runner in
the UN process. The PA can be expected to have ef-
fects on most states that had no previous emissions
commitments. Will it also have effects on the most
ambitious actor in the process, the EU? Regarding in-
ternational carbon markets, the increased involvement
and pressure on various business and industry actors
have been hailed as major elements of the PA (Haas,
2015). Can we expect a further boost in carbon mar-
kets in its wake?
Potential effectiveness will depend on at least two
conditions: a certain “distance” between PA require-
ments and the status quo; and influence through polit-
Politics and Governance, 2016, Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 188-196 189
ical, legal, and administrative/bureaucratic pathways
(Cortell & Davis, 1996). These pathways are by no
means mutually exclusive and may very well co-exist.
First, there is the legal pathway whereby international
rules and procedures become incorporated in domestic
law; this may affect the interactions between govern-
mental and societal actors. Second, the political path-
way directs attention to how government officials and
societal actors can invoke international political decla-
rations to further their own specific interests in domes-
tic policy debates. Hence, international institutions or
regimes may serve as “agents of internal realignments”
(Levy, Young, & Zurn, 1995, p. 307). In essence, inter-
national institutions might affect the alignment of do-
mestic groups endeavoring to influence a government's
behavior. Consequently, institutions can heighten state
concern by magnifying public pressure in reluctant
states (Haas, Keohane, & Levy, 1993, p. 22). Similarly,
governments may also be empowered to take action.
The existence of international rules may be utilized for
purposes of justifying own actions, or to question the
legitimacy of the actions of others. In particular, gov-
ernmental officials may cite international rules to legit-
imate unpopular decisions on stringent regulations. Fi-
nally, international institutional procedures may
become enmeshed domestically through the standard
operating procedures of bureaucratic agencies (Young,
1989, pp. 78-79). This third pathway—the “bureaucrat-
ic/administrative pathwayindicates how interna-
tional institutional procedures may affect domestic in-
stitutional procedures.
Key observers have given generally positive evalua-
tions of the Paris Agreement, although they tend to
underline different aspects. Bodansky (2015) stresses
how the Agreement has injected new hope for the UN
climate regime. Such increased legitimacy of the UN
process may contribute to strengthen the legal path-
way through rapid ratification. Haas (2015) argues that
the PA represents a new political approach, one in
which the focus of attention is private sector innova-
tion and is subject to pressure from a constellation of
other actors, including nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs), social movements and the scientific communi-
ty as well as the UN itself. If this rather optimistic sce-
nario unfolds, it may contribute significantly to
strengthening the political pathway. Victor (2015)
strongly endorses the new hybrid architecture, arguing
it will have a real impact on emissions, and that the PA
will contribute to deeper commitments over time.
However, he adds more detailed regulations are need-
ed to secure an effective and dynamic review system
that can serve to increase incentives for continued
emissions reductions. van Assselt (2016) underlines the
key role non-state actors may play in this regard. If this
can be achieved, it will also help to strengthen the bu-
reaucratic/administrative pathway by increasing non-
state actors’ access to decision-making.
2. The Paris Agreement: A Brief Evaluation
Prior to the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the main
legal instrument was the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyo-
to Protocol with its two commitment periods. The UN-
FCCC represented a necessary start of the process
through its framework approach. The Kyoto Protocol
was an innovative instrument with novel characteris-
tics, the flexible mechanisms. It also represented a step
forward, with legally binding emission targets for the
Annex 1 countries. At the time this made sense, as the
countries of the Global North had main responsibility
for creating the problem, and they were also the main
emitters. However, since the Kyoto Protocol was adopt-
ed in 1997, emissions have been reduced in the North,
while rising by some 160% in the South. Today, the in-
dustrialized countries with targets inscribed for the sec-
ond commitment period account for only 15% of total
global emissions (Andresen, 2015). For the UN climate
regime to enhance its problem-solving effectiveness, the
regulatory scope would have to be increased.
This was the background for radical new approach
set forth in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord: a bottomup
approach based on a system of national pledges of non-
binding character without legal enforcement. Pledges
were to be made by all countries, in contrast to the bina-
ry approach of the Kyoto Protocol. The Paris Agreement
builds on and specifies this new approach. Considering
the strong similarities between these two instruments,
Bodansky (2015) has introduced the term “Copenparis”.
Why was the former regarded as a fiasco, while Paris has
been considered a success? Observers have pointed to
the stark difference in process between the two events
(see Haas, 2015; Victor, 2015). In Copenhagen, the Dan-
ish leadership was considered weak and even counter-
productive. In contrast, the French leadership is seen to
have facilitated agreement though clever diplomacy be-
fore and during the negotiations. This helped to create
broad ownership to the process and to build trust
among parties. Bodansky (2015) agrees this may have
had some positive effect. However, he claims, other fac-
tors are more important in explaining why a “Copenha-
gen look-alike treaty” was adopted in Paris. First, the
main elements of the Accord had in practice been codi-
fied in the COPs between Copenhagen and Paris, so
most parties had gradually realized this would be the
main architecture of the new treaty. In this regard Ober-
thur and Groen (2016) add that no main actor wanted to
take the blame for failure and that the US as well as Chi-
na and lesser climate powers were aligned towards the
goal of reaching agreement. Secondly, key emerging
countries had de facto accepted that in practice the Kyo-
to track was a dead issue unlike in Copenhagen, where
they still anticipated a continuation of the Kyoto Proto-
col. Finally, expectations were far more realistic in Paris.
In Copenhagen many still hoped for an agreement with
Politics and Governance, 2016, Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 188-196 190
strong legal bite. This was no longer the case. We can
add a fourth reason: the vagueness of the Paris Agree-
ment made it easy to accept. This is reflected by the fact
that all major parties, from the USA to the Alliance of
Small Island States (AOSIS), with widely different inter-
ests and preferences, embraced the PA as a success.
These factors explain why the Paris Agreement was
widely accepted, but will this ‘Copenhagen look-alike’
set the world on a path to reduce emissions? That calls
for a focus on aspects that set the Paris Agreement
apart from the Copenhagen Accord. While the latter
was a soft political document, the former is a treaty in
the meaning of the Vienna Convention on the Law of
Treaties. Legal treaties can be expected to have more
significance for the behavior of their members than
soft political documents, although this is a complex
question (Skjærseth, Schram Stokke, & Wettestad,
2006). However, the practical significance of the PA’s
legal force should not be exaggerated. For example the
US administration firmly opposed being bound to the
achievement of its declared target. Still, the PA is a
treaty under international law and we argue that it is
an advantage that the Paris Agreement is a legal treaty.
While the Copenhagen Accord had entailed an al-
most pure “bottom–up” approach, in Paris agreement
was reached on a more hybrid architecture. The parties
are required to provide information about their pledg-
es to track progress as regards implementation. Of par-
ticular importance is that the parties are taking on Na-
tionally Determined Contributions (NDCs) when they
ratify the PA. Furthermore it establishes a regular five-
yearly “stock-take” to be provided every five years
from 2023 to be progressively more ambitious over
time. This dynamic and transparent element is promis-
ing, but is also vulnerable, as much depends on the will
and ability of countries to deliver on their pledges. Al-
so, a soft (topdown) approach has been chosen, as
the PA has weak compliance mechanisms and no sanc-
tions. That makes it weaker than the Kyoto Protocol,
but was probably necessary to get key actors on board.
While the PA copies the Copenhagen goal of not
exceeding a temperature increase of 2°C, it also adds
the aspirational 1.5 °C target. As a point of departure,
an ambitious goal is preferable to no goals or a goal
than can be very easily reached. Ideally it may help
members to the agreement to stretch further than
they would otherwise do. However, it is important to
have a match between the goal and the institutional
underpinning necessary to reach the goal adopted.
Judging from the pledges made so far, neither of these
goals will be attained, so the Parties will have to ex-
pand their ambitions considerably in the future if the
Paris Agreement is to live up to expectations.
3. The EU: Before, in and after Paris
Before Paris: Since the 1990s, the EU has aimed at
showing leadership by example in the international
climate regime. The credibility of this ambition has
been strengthened by adding increasingly more ambi-
tious targets and policies and actual results on the
ground. In 2007 and 2008, the EU leaders agreed on
climate and related energy targets and binding policies
for 2020, including cutting GHG emissions by 20 per-
cent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Targets and pol-
icies for 2020 spurred the first step towards a long-
term strategy when, in 2009, the EU leaders agreed to
support an EU goal of reducing GHG emissions be-
tween 80% and 95% by 2050 against 1990 levels (Euro-
pean Council, 2009).
The European Commission used the 2009 “decar-
bonizing” by 2050 agreement as a foundation for step-
ping up long-term climate strategies. In 2011, it issued
a roadmap for moving towards a competitive low-
carbon economy by 2050, showing that GHG emissions
would have to be reduced by 40% by 2030 and 60% by
2040, compared to 1990 levels (European Commission,
2011). In October 2014, the 28 EU leaders apparently
delivered on the low-carbon strategy by adopting a
climate and energy policy framework for 2030, includ-
ing a new goal of domestic GHG reductions of at least
40% compared to 1990 (European Council, 2014). They
also agreed to “revert to” the issue after the Paris Con-
ference, indicating that the EU targets might be adjust-
ed in light of the outcome. By 2015, total EU GHG
emissions were already 23% below 1990 levelswhich
also reflected various factors not directly related to
climate policy, such as the activity-dampening effects
of the economic crisis.
Climate policies and achievements underpinned the
leadership-by-example ambition when the EU prepared
for the Paris Conference. The 40% by 2030 target served
as the EU’s proposed NDC for the upcoming Paris meet-
ing. In September 2015, EU ministers adopted the EU’s
negotiating mandate that also included preferences for
an ambitious, transparent, dynamic, and legally binding
agreement (including the NDCs) based on science. For
the EU, “science” means the 2007 fourth assessment re-
port of the IPCC, which indicates that developed coun-
tries should reduce emissions by 8095% by 2050 to lim-
it global warming to 2oC. For poor countries, financial
support should be stepped up.
While EU climate ambitions may appear impressive,
they mask significant political tension and differing in-
terests within the EU. Poland and a group of Central
and Eastern European countries dependent on domes-
tically produced coal do not favor the EU’s long-term
climate ambitions. More concerned with energy securi-
ty, they have been playing along for the time being as a
result of political pressure, derogations, and financial
support. Another line of diverging interests goes be-
tween the energy-intensive industries that argue for a
level playing field between the EU and major competi-
tors, and the electric power industry shielded from
Politics and Governance, 2016, Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 188-196 191
competition outside Europe (Skjærseth, Eikeland,
Gulbranden, & Jevnaker, 2016). It has also been argued
that the EU’s climate strategy does not add up to the
EU’s 2050 target (Dimantchev & Schjølset, 2016), but
relies on uncertain technological improvements and
the progressive up-scaling of efforts after 2030.
In Paris: Internal political tensions represented a
real risk of EU division during the Paris Conference. Po-
land had vetoed the 2050 strategy and opposed the
EU’s negotiating mandate for COP21, but became iso-
lated after being granted concessions regarding some
changes in wording that made no substantial differ-
ence (EurActive, 2015). Poland’s new, climate-skeptical
conservative government initially also threatened to
torpedo COP21, but changed its stance conditional on
an outcome that would protect the interests of the
Polish economy (Politico, 2015). That meant protection
of coal—nearly 90% of Poland’s electricity is produced
by mainly indigenous coal that feeds 53 coal-fired
plants, with a dozen new ones expected to come on-
line before 2020 (Skjærseth, 2014). Despite initial op-
position, the EU managed to maintain considerable po-
litical unity throughout the Paris Conference, helping to
build a “high-ambition coalition” that proved instru-
mental in achieving a dynamic agreement with all big
emitters on board. Poland was pleased when refer-
ences to “phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies” were de-
leted from the PA text (CAN Europe, 2015). The Paris
Agreement became more ambitious than the EU posi-
tion with its aspirational goal of limiting the tempera-
ture increase to 1.5oC. The dynamic element was, as
noted, adopted with the addition of a “global stocktak-
ing” every five years from 2023 to consider progress in
emissions reductions. The NDCs were not made bind-
ing, but the parties are legally obliged to pursue
measures for meeting their contributions.
After Paris: The 1.5 °C aspirational goal created a
“distance” between the PA outcome and EU targets,
policies, and position, which are based on the 2.0 °C
goal. This gap provides the PA with the potential to af-
fect EU climate policy. Politically, the EU institutions re-
sponded immediately and enthusiastically to the Paris
outcome. European Commission President Juncker de-
scribed the deal as “robust” and as a success for the
EU. EU Climate and Energy Commissioner Cañete fol-
lowed up by praising the EU efforts to build a high-
ambition alliance, characterizing the deal as a major
win for Europe (European Commission, 2015a). The Eu-
ropean Parliament delegation to COP21 called it an “un-
precedented breakthrough in the fight against climate
change” and emphasized the need to follow up the
1.5 °C goal by concrete policies (European Parliament,
2015). Non-state actors with varying climate-policy in-
terests were supportive as well. BusinessEurope, with
national business federation members across Europe,
described the deal as a “major step forward,” but
voiced concern that the agreement did not solve the is-
sue of competitiveness for European industries in highly
competitive global markets (BusinessEurope, 2016).
The electric power industry, represented by EURELEC-
TRIC, firmly welcomed the outcome, describing the
deal as a “major landmark” (Eurelectric, 2015). The Eu-
ropean oil industry, and one of the least climate-
enthusiastic energy-intensive industriessteel
welcomed the deal as well, but stressed the need for a
strategy to provide a competitive level playing field and
protect Europe’s industries from carbon leakage (Eu-
rofer, 2015; FuelsEurope, 2015). In their response, Eu-
rope’s largest green NGO coalition on climate and ener-
gy issuesClimate Action Networklisted the goods
and not-so-goods, including the 1.5 °C target and the
lack of binding country contributions, respectively (CAN
Europe, 2015).
The EU would “revert to” the 2030 framework after
Paris. The positive responses to the dynamic long-term
PA were used by “green” groups to argue for tighter EU
targets and policies. In March 2016, the Commission
responded formally with its Communication “The Road
from Paris” (European Commission, 2016). The key
message disappointed the green groupsthe 2020 and
2030 targets were to remain unchanged. The EU would
participate in the first global stocktaking in 2023 and
would consider more ambitious action beyond 2030.
Priority number one in following up the PA would be to
adopt binding policies on climate change (inclusion of
Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry, revision of
the EU Emissions Trading System and emission reduc-
tion in the non-trading sectors), renewables and ener-
gy efficiencypolicies planned before the PA to fill the
2030 framework with specific legislation. Further, the
policy implications of the 1.5 °C goal must be ad-
dressed, and the EU would provide input to a special
IPCC report on this issue in 2018.
The member states discussed the Communication
at their Environment Council meeting the same month.
The Communication was broadly welcomed, although
some ministers advocated higher ambitions (Environ-
ment Council, 2016). Many ministers highlighted the
need to maintain the Paris momentum for adopting
new 2030 policies and implementation. The subse-
quent EU leaders’ meeting became overshadowed by
the migration crisis, but there was broad support for the
Commission’s Communication (European Council, 2016).
In summary, the main political impact of the PA thus far
seems to be to justify EU climate policy and to legitimize
the positions of the “frontrunners.” This will help to del-
egitimize opposition and make it more difficult for coun-
tries like Poland to question EU climate policy.
As regards the legal aspects, the EU has signed the
PA, and intends to ratify the treaty “as soon as possible”
(European Commission, 2016, p. 4; European Council,
2016). Combined with the legally binding obligation to
pursue domestic measures, ratification of the PA will
probably put pressure on “laggards” for swift adoption
Politics and Governance, 2016, Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 188-196 192
of binding policies to deliver on the 2030 target. To en-
sure legitimacy, EU climate policies will need broad
support, beyond qualified majority. The EU leaders
have agreed to provide strategic orientation with re-
spect to consensus on the ETS and non-ETS (European
Council, 2014). The main bureaucratic/administrative ef-
fect of the PA is likely to be its dynamic nature and glob-
al stocktaking mechanism. Although this mechanism was
strongly favored by the EU, it will keep discussions warm
concerning the match between current and planned pol-
icies and the EU’s 2050 “decarbonization” target.
In conclusion, no EU political actor thus far has used
the PA to argue for lower levels of ambition: indeed,
the EU institutions, member states, industries, and the
green movement have all argued for keeping or raising
the level of short- and long-term ambitions. The 1.5 °C
goal and the dynamic nature of the PA will trigger a fol-
low-up process that may lead to higher ambitions be-
yond 2030, particularly since uncertainty prevails on
whether EU targets and policies add up to the EU’s 2050
goal. The combination of political, legal, and bureaucrat-
ic/administrative consequences of the PA will increase
the pressure on “laggards” within the EU to deliver on
and support the 40% reduction target by 2030 and be-
yond. Carbon capture and storage (CCS), a key political
solution for coal-based member states like Poland and a
technological precondition for “decarbonization”, has
failed across Europe, so the EU will need the PA to legit-
imate future unpopular decisions on stringent regulation
(Skjærseth et al., 2016). The PA may contribute to keep
climate at the agenda when the EU is dealing with a
number of (other) internal and external crisis. However,
it is far too early to pronounce on the actual longer-term
impact of the Paris Agreement on the EU.
4. Paris and Carbon Markets: Positive Implications
But Help for a Struggling EU ETS?
The EU ETS is the world’s largest carbon market to
date, and has been in place for more than a decade.
However, it has struggled with a carbon price that has
been both volatile and too low to provide forceful in-
centives to a low-carbon transformation. 2015 saw the
adoption of important structural reform of the EU ETS
and of a global climate agreement. Thus, the scene was
set for a positive development of carbon trading in
general and within the EU in particular. Nevertheless,
the European carbon price has since dropped. Alt-
hough additional tightening of the EU ETS has been
suggested, this now seems to be a long shot. Having
fought heavily to get the structural reform adopted last
year (Wettestad & Jevnaker, 2016), the interest in re-
opening that can of worms is low.
Moreover, after years of weak economic growth,
the EU has not been willing to strengthen its overall
climate targets in light of the PA, including the 1.5 °C
ambition (see previous section). Despite the advent of
a global climate agreement, the EU still regards carbon
leakage a major issue. Shielding EU industries from cli-
mate policy in order to preserve their global competi-
tiveness remains important, indicating a “wait and see”
attitude towards the bottom-up regime put in place by
the PA. How could this be? In this section, we explore
the interaction between the EU ETS reform process
and the global climate regime along the legal, political
and the administrative/bureaucratic pathways.
The Paris Agreement includes elements of rele-
vance for carbon markets, as well as a review process
that is intended to strengthen regional and domestic
climate policy. The Paris meeting was not expected to
give anything to carbon markets, but the implicit and
explicit reference to elements associated with carbon
markets gave rise to optimistic assessments as to the
future of carbon trading. The term “market” was
deemed too controversial to be mentioned explicitly in
the Agreement itself (except when referring to non-
market approaches), although the term “carbon pric-
ing” appears in relation to non-party stakeholders in a
COP decision accompanying the agreement, where it is
referred to as a tool for incentivizing emission reduc-
tion along with domestic policies. Nevertheless, lan-
guage relevant to the development of carbon markets
was included in the Paris Agreement. Here, coopera-
tion among countries in achieving their national cli-
mate policies (NDCs) was acknowledged: countries
could cooperate on implementation by trading “inter-
nationally transferred mitigation outcomes” (ITMOs,
Art. 6.2). Moreover, a mechanism for sustainable de-
velopment would be set up (Art. 6.4), building on pre-
vious global offsetting mechanisms (Clean Develop-
ment Mechanism and Joint Implementation), with the
specific design to be decided at subsequent meetings.
Beyond this, the PA included provisions for periodical
review of national climate policies that were to be at
least as ambitious as the previous version.
What, then, will the PA entail for the subsequent
development of carbon markets? In the following we
will concentrate on its impact on the EU ETS, but let us
first note a few points as to carbon markets more gen-
erally. This includes both the emergence of carbon
markets individually and “collectively”, i.e. the pro-
cesses of linking them. The legal pathway is weak as to
effects on individual carbon markets, although the PA
offers language referring to carbon markets. There is
nothing in the PA that requires countries to adopt and
implement legislation for a carbon market. Thus, car-
bon markets will probably continue to emerge in frag-
mented and piecemeal ways, as in the past. However,
the turn to emissions trading in China, today the
world’s biggest emitter, is important, and could accel-
erate ETS adoption rates globally. China has already
launched plans for a national ETS. Moreover, many
countries’ INDCs included plans for carbon trading. To-
gether these two factors related to the legal pathway
Politics and Governance, 2016, Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 188-196 193
from the PAbeing voluntary and bottom-up rather
than top-down and bindingcould see enhanced co-
operation on this climate policy instrument.
Additional support could come from a follow-up
process from the PA on providing common guidance on
carbon accounting rules. This is essential for the basic
trust of data, and thus for linking processes to work.
Although linking could offer cost-efficient emission re-
duction, there is no 1-to-1 relationship between func-
tionality and linking. In the past, prior cooperation be-
tween regions, countries, or sub-national entities has
been important for linking emissions trading schemes,
and differences in the design of carbon markets can
pose challenges unless there is clear political will to
make adjustments (Jevnaker & Wettestad, 2016). The
legal pathway might also be activated where the PA is
used by actors at the domestic or transnational arena in
order to push for (more) ambitious caps and well-
functioning price management mechanisms. Finally, this
might coincide with the administrative/bureaucratic
pathway, as the five-year cycle of reviews offers oppor-
tunities for actors to utilize this window of opportunity
for placing carbon-market issues on the political agenda.
Turning to the EU carbon market, the PA was wel-
comed by proponents of a stronger EU ETS. Earlier the
same year, the EU had finally agreed on a structural re-
form of its ETS in order to deal with a structural surplus
that threatened to undermine the system as well as
long-term climate targets. From 2019 onwards, a
“market stability reserve” (MSR) would regulate supply
by automatically withdrawing or releasing allowances
should the total amount of allowances in circulation
cross upper or lower thresholds. The road towards re-
form had been paved with daggers, first with contro-
versy as to whether or not to intervene in the carbon
market at all, and then on how to intervene.
It took a heavy load to turn this around: The Ger-
man election in 2013 resulted in a new coalition gov-
ernment accompanied by structural changes to the en-
ergy and environmental ministries. This moved
Germany from being reluctant to supportive of carbon
market reform. Moreover, bargaining deals in the (Eu-
ropean) Council and in the European Parliament were
enabled in part because proposals were recalibrated to
make them politically feasible, and in part due to con-
cessions given to Central and Eastern member-states,
but also due to the display of power, with West Euro-
pean member states overruling Poland and some other
CEECs, through majority voting in the final MSR rounds.
More generally, the reform process was facilitated by
European Council conclusions on the 2030 climate and
energy policy, in preparation for the Paris climate
summit (Wettestad & Jevnaker, 2016).
As regards the international dimension, EU interest
in exercising international climate leadership had
pushed EUinternal policy development ahead of the
international climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009
(Boasson & Wettestad, 2013). However, this seemed to
figure less prominentlyand certainly in different
mannerprior to Paris. Worried about meager eco-
nomic development after the financial crisis, with parts
of Southern Europe still struggling, the EU was particu-
larly concerned with economic competitiveness and
vulnerability, making it more inward-looking. The low
hopes of achieving a binding climate agreement in Par-
is meant that the pull from the external context in the
form of global climate negotiations was clearly less
than in 2008, although it was not entirely absent (Wet-
testad & Jevnaker, 2016).
Most observers expected that the adoption of the
MSR would mark a turning point for an ETS in head-
wind since 2010. After meagre outlooks for the ETS
price for several years, the carbon price now started
climbing, slowly. More importantly, long-term expecta-
tions to the carbon price seemed likely to offer incen-
tives to changes in behavior (fuel-switching) with antic-
ipated levels of around €30–40 by 2030 (for an
overview of the response to the MSR, see Wettestad &
Jevnaker, 2016). As mentioned above, the PA was seen
as offering further support. Nevertheless, 2016 saw the
return of a gloomy outlook. The carbon price dropped
from just above €8 euro to €5–6, settling at around €5.
Price estimates for 2030 also dropped significantly. Re-
acting to the low price, in March 2016 France proposed
introducing a price corridor to the ETS, whereby allow-
ances would be placed in the MSR if the price proved
to be too low, and released if too high. This was de-
signed to avoid the spread of national measures like
the UK carbon-price floor. The Environment Ministry in
the key ETS country Germany responded by stating
that it was open to discussion of further reform op-
tions, but that, rather than a price-based regulation (as
proposed by France), it preferred to keep the quantita-
tive-based approach. Other tightening options, such as
abolishing allowance banking between phases and a
further tightening of the MSR parameters, have been
put forward (see Carbon Pulse, 2016).
Thus, in the aftermath of PA, there were calls for
increasing ambitiousness of both the overall EU climate
target as well at the level of a cornerstone climate poli-
cy instrument. The former was related to the PA (and
was rejected, see previous section), while the latter
came as a response to a price drop. A possible strategy
would be to attach such efforts to ongoing ETS reform
discussions that were launched in mid-2015 following
the adoption of the MSR (European Commission,
2015b). Up until mid-2016 (a decision is expected in
early 2017), the debate among policymakers and
stakeholders had centered on carbon leakage and sup-
port for low-carbon R&Daspects related to the cap
had already been decided in practice by the European
Council in October 2014 (Wettestad & Jevnaker, 2016).
Thus, the ongoing ETS discussions seemed to proceed
unaffected by the PA. Instead, actors jumped on the
Politics and Governance, 2016, Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 188-196 194
price drop to justify further tightening of the system.
However, the timing is complicated, as the EU has just
concluded a heated and complicated process that ended
in the adoption of the MSR. Central Commission officials
including Climate and Energy Commissioner Cañete,
have signaled disapproval of new tightening measures
before the MSR has started to work. Moreover, the in-
terest in shielding and supporting European businesses
has remained in place and weigh heavy in current dis-
cussions, seemingly unaffected by the advent of a global
climate agreement. Thus, neither the legal nor the politi-
cal pathway have turned out to be important so far, as is
the case for the bureaucratic/administrative pathway:
follow-up procedures from the PA have not been con-
nected to the ongoing discussion of ETS reform, which is
likely to have been concluded by the time that the EU
starts preparing for the review.
Could the PA become more important for ETS re-
form in the future? Without mandatory implementa-
tion of a given instrument, the legal pathway seems less
relevant for this particular process. As to the bureaucrat-
ic/administrative pathway, entering the PA review cycle
might affect future ETS discussions, and the MSR review
in 2023 could follow up on PA deliverables due the same
year. This is related to the political pathway, which for
the interaction between the PA and the EU ETS appears
most interesting, although requires support from actors
within all three EU institutions. Moreover, in light of the
diverging views of climate policy in general among
member-states (Poland being partly compensated, part-
ly overrun by Germany in the MSR process), strategic
use of the PA to garner support for ETS reform across
the board might be counter-productive, especially be-
fore having concrete evidence of comparable climate ef-
forts emerging outside the EU. As such, successful Chi-
nese carbon trading might trigger an interesting dynamic
also inside the EU. As things stand now, however, the
case of the EU ETS shows that it will be challenging to
use the PA in internal processes and that hopes in this
regard should be realistic and moderate.
5. Concluding Comments
Most observers agree that the PA is a step in the right
direction in the process towards a new approach for
dealing with the challenge of climate change, but the
overall significance of this agreement in a problem-
solving perspective is unknown. We have therefore fo-
cused on the potential impact of the PAon the EU
and carbon markets. We concluded that the dynamic
structure of the agreement may trigger a follow-up
process in the EU that could lead to greater ambitions
beyond 2030. The combined impact through the politi-
cal, legal and bureaucratic/administrative pathways
connecting the PA to the EU may also increase pres-
sure on laggards within the EU. The agreement did not
create a new global trading regime but it could create
some momentum for actors favoring this instrument.
Regarding the EU ETS, the world’s largest carbon mar-
ket, the political pathway is of greatest interest for the
prospects of further tightening of the system and
boosting the carbon price. Still, it will be challenging to
use the PA in these internal processes and hopes in this
regard should therefore be modest.
However important EU climate polices and carbon
markets are for future international climate policies,
the main challenges are elsewhere, primarily in devel-
oping countries. As these countries have previously had
no “hard” commitments we believe the PA is an im-
portant step in bringing these countries on board. Equal-
ly important, the Paris Agreement contributed to restore
the reputation of the UN as a major instrument in bring-
ing this process forward. Still, it is important to realize
that this avenue is one among many in the increasingly
complex nature of the overall climate regime. However,
the PA is important in this broader context as it focuses
strongly on the importance of including non-state actors,
not the least business and industry, into the process. In
order to realize the high ambitions of the Paris Agree-
ment non-state actors as well as states have to demon-
strate a political will to deal with the problem that has so
far been absent. Whether this can be realized remains to
be seen, but with the global framework in place the ball
is squarely passed back to them.
Conflict of Interests
The authors declare no conflict of interests.
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About the Authors
Steinar Andresen is a research professor at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway. He has also been
a professor at the Department of Political Science and an adjunct professor at the Faculty of law, both
University of Oslo. He has also been affiliated with various international institutions as a guest re-
searcher. He has published extensively internationally, mostly on international environmental gov-
ernance.
Jon Birger Skjærseth is a research professor at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute. His research interest fo-
cuses on various environmental challenges, including climate and energy policies and strategies at
the corporate, national, EU and international levels. He has published extensively in these fields, in-
cluding a number of books.
Torbjørg Jevnaker is a research fellow at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute and PhD candidate at the De-
partment of Political Science, University of Oslo. Her research interests include climate and energy
market policy within the EU, organization studies and public administration.
Jørgen Wettestad is a research professor at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute. He has published several
books and numerous articles on international and EU environmental policy with particular attention
to emission trading. His most recent book (together with Torbjørg Jevnaker) is Rescuing EU Emission
Trading: The Climate Policy Flagship (Palgrave, 2016).
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Does the Paris Agreement provide a boost to carbon markets? Although carbon markets are spreading globally, so far relatively few links have been established between them. The history of linking indicates that successful efforts are characterized by converging ets design, and, related to this, political will. Moreover, existing links have been facilitated by prior economic and political ties. Such linking processes face significant challenges related to distribution of power and political feasibility. The Paris Agreement does not make the more intrinsic challenges of political linking go away. Moreover, a significant amount of elaboration and clarification of the Paris Agreement remains subject to further negotiations. Nevertheless, Paris confirmed an increasing support for carbon markets: the periodic reviews of state climate policies, shared fulfilment, and common guidance for accounting, together provide a new momentum for the development of carbon markets and the process of linking them. What this boost means for the prospects of a globally interlinked carbon market remains to be seen.
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Climate policy is today a significant area of EU governance, providing important framework conditions for many industries. But how has EU climate policy developed? This book offers structured, comparative case studies of the development of four central climate policies: emissions trading systems, renewables, carbon capture and storage, and energy policy for buildings, examining the intriguing similarities and differences in how these have taken shape. Combining sociological New Institutionalism and political science theories in a novel and engaging way, Elin Lerum Boasson and Jørgen Wettestad explore and explain the history of EU climate policy. What emerges are fascinating stories - of skilled entrepreneurs who have managed to create and exploit political windows of opportunity, and of more long-term path-dependent developments. Drawing on more than 60 interviewees, the authors present accounts never told before, providing a valuable and timely contribution to our knowledge of environmental management and EU integration. This book is a must-read for all those seeking to understand the driving forces in EU climate policy and recognize its prospects for the future. © Elin Lerum Boasson and Jørgen Wettestad 2013. All rights reserved.
Article
Generally, scholars of international relations have attempted to show that international rules or norms influence state behavior by locating their causal significance at the level of state interactions. However, international rules and norms also affect a country's policy choice by way of the actions of domestic political actors. In particular, government officials and societal interest groups can appeal to an international rule or norm in an effort to further their objectives in the national arena. Through such appeals, international rules and norms can become incorporated into the policy debate, and, under some conditions, may ultimately affect national policy choice. The article identifies two factors that condition the extent to which an actor's appeal to an international rule or norm will influence state behavior: the domestic structural context and the domestic salience of the international rule or norm. This argument is explored through an examination of how international rules and norms have affected U.S. policy choices in both the economic and security realms. The security case examines the impact of President Bush's appeal to the norm of collective security to justify a response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The economic case covers the U.S. semiconductor industry's efforts to persuade the Reagan administration to obtain Japanese liberalization of its trade practices with regard to semiconductor devices.