EU environmental policy in times of crisis

Charlotte Burns (University of Sheffield), Peter Eckersley (Nottingham Trent University) & Paul Tobin (University of Manchester)

Ever since expanding supranational environmental policy in the 1980s, the EU has carefully crafted a reputation as a global environmental leader. Yet, a series of recent academic contributions claim that the post-2009 economic recession and a growing sense of Euroscepticism across Member States have left their mark on the EU’s environmental policy ambition. In their article “EU environmental policy in times of crisis” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Charlotte Burns, Peter Eckersley and Paul Tobin analyse whether the past decade’s conglomerate of crises has effectively dismantled the EU’s environmental policy ambition. Identifying all environmental legislation proposed and adopted by the EU between 2004 and 2014, Charlotte, Peter and Paul show that the EU’s environmental policy output indeed dropped in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 economic crisis. Notwithstanding this short-term effect, evidence from interviews with 35 policy-makers in Brussels suggests that other factors, including an increasing diversity among EU Member States and the maturity of the acquis communautaire, played a much more consequential role in the slowing down of the EU’s environmental policy ambition. The evidence presented in Charlotte, Peter and Paul’s contribution challenges perceptions “of a crisis ridden Union intent upon rolling back its environmental ambitions, but of a surprisingly resilient environmental policy actor that in the face of enormous challenges managed to keep the show on the road.”