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Europe going green? The European Union's promotion of a global mitigation norm on climate change

  • Author / Creator
    De Cock, Geert
  • Greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2020 to avoid dangerous climate change. Yet, emissions are rising, particularly in emerging economies like China. A global agreement on curbing emissions, which includes all major emitters, is urgently needed. Has the European Union (EU) contributed to the emergence of a global mitigation norm and if so, how? This dissertation analyses the EU’s domestic leadership on climate change and assesses European diplomatic efforts in multilateral settings such as the 2009 Copenhagen summit and the EU’s bilateral efforts vis-à-vis China. For its theoretical framework, this dissertation draws on the Constructivist literature on norm diffusion and norm leaders and engages with the critiques that Constructivist research has neglected the political-economic context in which norms operate and the importance of domestic structures. In the empirical analysis, the dissertation reveals that both environmental concerns, as well as ideas about the economic benefits for the EU of a ‘first-mover advantage’ of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, motivated the EU’s self-proclaimed leadership on climate change. Yet, environmentalist organizations and the EU’s negotiating partners do not perceive the EU as a climate leader, because they find that the EU’s domestic climate policies lack ambition. The EU has not demonstrated how economic growth can be combined with reduced emissions, which contributed to the inability of EU foreign policy to promote an ambitious outcome during the Copenhagen summit and bridge divisions between the US and China. This multilateral failure did not prevent the EU from bilaterally helping Chinese policy-makers understand that limiting emissions increases in China is compatible with economic growth in China. This research relied on qualitative methods, which included 22 semi-structured interviews with both EU and non-EU policy-makers, observation as a delegate during the Copenhagen summit and an analysis of EU policy documents. Media coverage of climate-related policy developments supplemented my analysis of primary sources. This thesis advocates a research strategy that combines analytic elements from different theories to explore how long-standing dichotomous categories like normative vs. material factors or the environment vs. the economy obfuscate rather than help our analysis of contemporary world politics.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2011
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Keating, Tom (Political Science)
    • Thorlakson, Lori (Political Science)
    • Hughes, Elaine (Law)
    • Bernstein, Steven (Political Science, University of Toronto Mississauga)