European Commission’s Sing-along: Civil Society as a Last Resort in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Debate— The Case DG CLIMA

Pawel Pustelnik Introduction

Directorate General Climate Action (DG CLIMA) has been known since its establishment in 2010 as a part of the European Commission (EC), which is particularly disposed to pick up signals from civil society organizations. DG CLIMA’s partnership with these organizations, or more precisely, with the environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has been well facilitated by with the ability to cooperate coming from both sides. At the same time, it is claimed that that the DG had to strongly defend its green ideas against less environmentally predisposed member states but also internally, against DG Energy, DG Competition, and DG Industry. This was evident, for example, during the 2009-2011 discussion on a possible step-up to higher emission targets (Skovgaard 2014). A more recent initiative that proved DG CLIMA isolation, and

P. Pustelnik (*)

School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017 175

R. Marchetti (ed.), Partnerships in International Policy-Making, International Series on Public Policy,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-349-94938-0_9

disagreements with DG Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE), has been an attempt to include aviation in the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). These two examples are not outliers but represent a wider problem of the EU’s unambitious approach to climate policy due to financial constraints in a period of economic downturn combined with its aspiration to be a leader internationally on climate change (Oberthur and Pallemaerts 2011; Wurzel and Connelly 2010). This, as gathered by Skovgaard (2014), has been further fuelled by poor COP15 results and diverging interests of the new and old EU member states.

This chapter considers the inclusion of aviation in the EU ETS as a case to address questions pertaining to the relations between the EC and environmental non-governmental organizations (eNGOs) that provide here an example of civil society—European public institution interactions. While some have already focused on the role of non-state, target actors in the EU ETS debate (Skodvin et al. 2010), here the spotlight is shifted towards civil society organizations. First, this chapter asks how the relationship between eNGOs and the EC has been developing in the ETS file. Secondly it investigates at the role that the eNGOs played in the debate and how their involvement supported or hindered EC decision-making. Lastly, it examines the influence of US eNGOs on decision-making processes about inclusion of aviation in the EU ETS.

The empirical material for this analysis was gathered during semistructured interviews conducted between March and May 2013 in Washington, DC and in March and April 2014 in Brussels. In the USA 20 people were interviewed in 18 interviews (two interviews were given by two persons simultaneously). Fifteen of them were face-to-face meetings that lasted between 40 and 90 minutes. Two more interviews were conducted by phone due to the interviewees’ limited availability in Washington. Additionally one interview was conducted via Skype in June 2013. The interviewees come from various backgrounds: the US Congress, American aviation industry (airlines, manufacturers, airports), eNGOs, EU officials present in Washington, one consultancy firm and one think tank involved in the discussion on the EU ETS and aviation. In Brussels 19 interviews were conducted during face-to-face meetings that lasted between 50 and 90 minutes. The interviewees included EC staff, staff of the Members of the European Parliament, staff of parliamentary groups, environmental NGOs representatives, and aviation industry representatives (airlines, airports, plane manufacturers). All the interviews were transcribed and the verbatim transcripts were used in the analysis.

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