EU climate-change policy—a critique

Smith School Working Paper Series

Professor Dieter Helm

From The Economics and Politics of Climate Change, edited by Dieter Helm and Cameron Hepburn, OUP, October 2009.

Environmental issues in general, and climate change in particular, lend themselves to EU rather than national policy: many of the effects (such as acid rain and later pollution) are regional, and climate change is global. To date, the EU has had some notable successes, of which addressing the problem of acid rain is perhaps the most significant in both scale and impact. But when it comes to climate change, there has been much action but little effect. Even though the EU comprises over 20 per cent of world GDP, and despite its historical responsibility for a considerable amount of the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, its efforts in the last two decades have probably not made as much as one part per million difference. Indeed, it is arguable that, even in comparison with the USA, the EU has not made much progress. The rhetoric, the plethora of initiatives, directives, and interventions has not been matched by outcomes.

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