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The evolution of emissions trading in the European Union - The role of policy networks, knowledge and policy entrepreneurs


  • Braun, Marcel


This paper starts with a recapitulation of how emissions trading became a cornerstone of the European Union's climate policy. While a whole bouquet of reasons can be identified the major reasons why the EU Commission decided to pursue the establishment of an emissions trading scheme within the EU are: (1) the integration of international emissions trading into the Kyoto Protocol; (2) the failure of the 6th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the withdrawal of the United States from the Kyoto Protocol negotiations; and (3) the unsuccessful attempt to introduce an EU-wide CO2-tax. Other reasons were the fact that emissions trading did not need unanimity in the European Council like the CO2-tax; the economic efficiency of emissions trading which appealed not only to the Commission but also to industry and Member States; the danger of a fragmented carbon market as the United Kingdom and Denmark had already set up domestic emissions trading schemes that were incompatible; the incentive a European emissions trading scheme would be for the formation of a global carbon market; and the possibility to influence investment strategies of power companies towards a sustainable modernisation of the EU's power generation infrastructure. Drawing upon these preconditions, this paper analyses the development of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). Based on the fact that the EU is embedded in a multi-level policy-making architecture which encourages the emergence of policy networks it is argued that the EU ETS has been shaped by an (informal) issue-specific policy network established by some staff members from DG Environment, including individuals knowledgeable on emissions trading - such as experts from consultancies, environmental NGOs and the business sector. It is argued that within this European policy network on emissions trading the European Emissions Trading Directive - as adopted on 13 October 2003 - has been negotiated and developed. It is concluded that the sharing of knowledge about this relatively new and largely unknown regulatory instrument and about design options for a potential European emissions trading scheme was the key momentum for the establishment and continuity of this policy network and that the ability of managing knowledge generation processes was the main factor to allow for a few staff members from DG Environment to play a dominant role as policy entrepreneurs in developing the European Emissions Trading Directive, even beyond their formal role of proposing the scheme as representatives from the EU Commission.

Suggested Citation

  • Braun, Marcel, 2009. "The evolution of emissions trading in the European Union - The role of policy networks, knowledge and policy entrepreneurs," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(3-4), pages 469-487, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:34:y:2009:i:3-4:p:469-487

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jørgen Wettestad, 2005. "The Making of the 2003 EU Emissions Trading Directive: An Ultra-Quick Process due to Entrepreneurial Proficiency?," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 5(1), pages 1-23, February.
    2. MacKenzie, Donald, 2009. "Making things the same: Gases, emission rights and the politics of carbon markets," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(3-4), pages 440-455, April.
    3. Cook, Allan, 2009. "Emission rights: From costless activity to market operations," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(3-4), pages 456-468, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tang, Ling & Shi, Jiarui & Bao, Qin, 2016. "Designing an emissions trading scheme for China with a dynamic computable general equilibrium model," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 507-520.
    2. Wang, Peng & Dai, Han-cheng & Ren, Song-yan & Zhao, Dai-qing & Masui, Toshihiko, 2015. "Achieving Copenhagen target through carbon emission trading: Economic impacts assessment in Guangdong Province of China," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 212-227.
    3. Asdal, Kristin, 2011. "The office: The weakness of numbers and the production of non-authority," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 1-9, January.
    4. repec:eee:rensus:v:82:y:2018:i:p3:p:4121-4131 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Lin Yang & Yunfei Yao & Jiutian Zhang & Xian Zhang & Karl J. McAlinden, 2016. "A CGE analysis of carbon market impact on CO2 emission reduction in China: a technology-led approach," Natural Hazards: Journal of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, Springer;International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, vol. 81(2), pages 1107-1128, March.
    6. Mélodie Cartel & Eva Boxenbaum & Franck Aggeri & Jean-Yves Caneill, 2017. "Policy making as collective bricolage: the role of the electricity sector in the making of the European carbon market," Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) hal-01615460, HAL.
    7. Dianne McGrath, 2011. "Accounting for the Environment: Towards a Theoretical Perspective for Environmental Accounting and Reporting," Social and Environmental Accountability Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(2), pages 169-170, September.
    8. Maxian Rusche, Tim, 2010. "The European climate change program: An evaluation of stakeholder involvement and policy achievements," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(10), pages 6349-6359, October.
    9. Bukvić, Rajko, 2015. "Рыночные Механизмы Сокращения Выбросов Парниковых Газов И Активности И Перспективы России
      [Market mechanisms of reduction of greenhouse gases emissions and actions and perspectives of Russia]
      ," MPRA Paper 71616, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2015.
    10. Yang, Lin & Li, Fengyu & Zhang, Xian, 2016. "Chinese companies’ awareness and perceptions of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS): Evidence from a national survey in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 254-265.
    11. Inglesi-Lotz, Roula & Blignaut, James N., 2014. "Improving the electricity efficiency in South Africa through a benchmark-and-trade system," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 833-840.
    12. Zhou, P. & Zhang, L. & Zhou, D.Q. & Xia, W.J., 2013. "Modeling economic performance of interprovincial CO2 emission reduction quota trading in China," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 1518-1528.

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