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

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  • Braun, Marcel
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    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.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Accounting, Organizations and Society.

    Volume (Year): 34 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 3-4 (April)
    Pages: 469-487

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:34:y:2009:i:3-4:p:469-487
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    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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