Academic Paper by Giacomo Di Capua
Climate Diplomacy & the European Union: Achievements, Challenges, Projections.
[The world is made up of an] interrelated web of ecosystems, including the atmosphere, and thus constitutes a 'global common' – that is, a resource which is difficult or impossible to exclude others from enjoying, but that is degraded by common use.

— Ottavio Quirico, 2012, p. 93

Until the late 1960s, climate change and environmental protection were not deemed to be among the fore challenges of global politics and international diplomacy, given the prioritization of economic growth in sheer terms of Gross National Product (NGP) during the two decades of the aftermath of World War II. While also being a global challenge due to its evidently cross-boundary dimension, climate change represents one of the most daunting tasks of the contemporary age and threatens to hamper the very existence of a livable environment for future generations.

Globalization, which on the one hand worsened the climate crisis by widening the current global overconsumption of non-renewable resources, increased their depletion, and brought about significant economic development at the cost of increased carbon emissions worldwide since 1990, on the other hand, strengthened the cooperation among global actors such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), intergovernmental organizations (e.g. the United Nations), international think tanks, and regional organizations such as the European Union in streamlining potential policy solutions and organizing international meetings with the aim to design ad-hoc coordinated strategies at the global level.

Mainly due to claims of such phenomenon being cyclically natural and not anthropogenic (i.e. man-made) and because of its delayed, long-term effects, the issue of climate change had not been received with utmost urgency by governments worldwide even though global efforts have undeniably skyrocketed after the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. In an international environment where climate diplomacy is considered to have been unsuccessful so far due to a lack of consensus on climate policies at the intergovernmental level, a positive and virtuous leader has emerged among other global actors: the European Union.

This paper aims to investigate whether the European Union can be considered the optimal platform to negotiate policy solutions to the global crisis of climate change, by analyzing its geopolitical leadership in climate diplomacy since its formation in 1993 and the legacy of the European Community in climate-mitigation strategies. The paper further focuses on how the EU has been galvanizing global interests and efforts in mitigating and fighting Climate Change among not only its member states but also global actors, while at the same time underlining the critical issues that have halted negotiations and implementation of the Paris Agreements. Finally, it concludes by analyzing the European Commission's New Green Deal as an attempt to negotiate diplomatically diverging needs of industrial interest groups and the need to solve the pressing and the increasingly relevant threat of climate change.
The Legacy of the European Community
As Afionis (2017) aptly puts it, "prior to 1973 there was no such thing as an EC environmental policy" (p. 32). Indeed the Treaties of Rome of 1957 did not define environmental protection as one of the competences for EC action, and until 1973 EC environmental policy was essentially "incidental to measures to harmonize laws in order to abolish obstacles to trade between Member states" (McGrory, 1990, p. 304). This situation critically changed after the issue of environmental policy became formally and officially a matter of international politics with the Stockholm Declaration in 1972, which put the EC leaders at a crossroads between pursuing leadership at the global level on a hitherto unexplored policy area or thwarting negative impacts on the economic competitivity of the Common Market. Environmental policy expansion de facto allowed several "laggard" Member States (mostly coal-reliant economies) within the EC to stall negotiations and direct commitments in the definition of the European Commission's three Programmes of Environmental Action, defined between 1973 and 1986. Only in 1987 with the ratification of the Single European Act (SEA) was the EEC's environmental action equipped with a legal basis, and environmental policy became one of the Community's competences together with technological research & development and employment & regional policy. In this context, the SEA played the pivotal role of streamlining for the first time norms of economic development and maintenance of ecological welfare (Afionis, 2017).

On the international stage, the EC fell short of the aspiration to be proactive during the multilateral negotiations on the ozone protection held in 1987 in Montreal due to intra-European clashes – British and French governments were particularly staunch in defending their chemical industries. First steps towards a climate leadership were made in the revision of the Montreal Protocol in 1990, when the EC advocated for faster reduction schedules of ozone-depleting substances (ODSs), and again in 1992 at the Copenhagen meeting, asking again for expedited action in tackling those ODSs. The conclusions of the June 1990 Dublin European Council clearly illuminate that EC members were fully aware that becoming forerunners of environmental action would have had significant repercussions on strategically placing the EC as a major player in global governance affairs:

The Community and its Member States have a special responsibility to encourage and participate in international action to combat global environmental problems. Their capacity to provide leadership in this field is enormous. (European Council, 1990, p. 22)

This prospect of leadership was well-received and internalized by the EC organs, and in July 1986 the European Parliament became the first institution of the Community to address the climate concern as both a subject of policy and scientific analysis (Liberatore, 1995). Besides, addressing climate change increasingly emerged as an equality issue, and with it transpired the need to give developing nations "access to the latest technological know-how" (Official Journal of the EC, 1986, p. 273) in order to tackle the drivers of such phenomenon. In the first EC Commission communication on the matter in 1988, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions did not appear a realistic objective, but rather a long-term policy goal even though with this communication the EC formally initiated a process of climate policy consideration that will ultimately make possible its geopolitical leadership in the sustainable development in the following decades.

The Commission had high expectations of being involved in "internal and external negotiations on climate change in the foreseeable future, especially after having fought hard to secure a role" in multilateral areas of negotiation on pollution abatement and ozone depletion (Afionis, 2017, p. 34). However, the fact that EC member states (MSs) promoted a "wait-and-see" approach in climate diplomacy conveyed the idea that such expectations were not shared at the national level.

In March 1990, the EC Commission took steps forward in calling for "the urgent need for a clear commitment by industrial countries to stabilize CO2 emissions" by the benchmark year of 2000 (EC, 1990, p. 3-4), and further advancements in the field of environmental policy were achieved in the 1990 Bergen Conference and the Joint Council of Energy and Environment ministers through the agreement that CO2 emissions should have been stabilized at 1990 levels uniformly within the Community by 2000 (Afionis, 2017). Finally, thanks to the UK's shift away from Prime Minister Thatcher's obstructionist tactics of the late 1980s, the Council could strongly promote discussions on climate change throughout the first years of the 1990s and become one of the main leaders in the nascent climate regime.

In the 1990-1992 period, the rising concern of climate change was paired with the issue of energy diplomacy as the first EC directives on energy saving and efficiency standards were published. In 1991, the Commission proposed a package of measures comprehensive of a carbon/energy tax, a monitoring system for EC's CO2 and GHGs emissions, and an incentive program for energy efficiency technologies and Renewable-Energy-Source (RES)-based energy production. However, the Commission had to compromise with energy-intensive industries by adding notable exemptions from the proposed energy tax and its proposals were met by what was defined as "the most ferocious lobbying ever seen in Brussels" (Hovi et al., 2003, cited in Afionis, 2017, p. 37). Because of the industry resistance organized through the UNICE (Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe) twined with threats to move the industrial activity outside of the EC, the pro-carbon tax forces yielded and the EC institutions could not have a head start in climate diplomacy by proposing such innovative package of measures at the Rio Summit of 1992.

The Rio Conference (also called Earth Summit) was heavily marked by the disputes between developing and developed nations, and especially tensions between the global North and South. Moreover, the EC internal disunity on the controversial carbon tax led Ripa di Meana, EC's then Environment Commissioner, to resign as the EC arrived in Rio without any unified policy stance on stabilizing CO2 emissions at the 1990 levels within the following 8 years, and it allowed the US to undermine EC's innovative, yet internally contested, policy proposals as "nonsensical" (Afionis, 2017, p. 39) since the Community had not had the consensus necessary to convene on a coherent implementation strategy for the proposed targets.

The main problem faced by the European Community was that of delivering scientifically adequate and yet politically unacceptable proposals, i.e. policy designs that were ecologically sustainable, with a fair system of distribution for costs and benefits, but without political practicability. The modest agreement on CO2 emissions concluded by the US and UK at the end of the Rio Summit due to the EC's inability to table consensus-driven proposals generated not little disappointment and frustrations among EC institutional officials, and the self-declared leadership position of the Community was undoubtedly stained by such failure. However, it is important to remark that even though the EC had only the observer status at the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) that took place in Rio, it managed to assist the various INC Presidencies to navigate the negotiations in the pursuit of diplomatic unity on the tabled proposals. Moreover, the EC and its MSs came to sign the Rio Convention, which was ratified in 1993, and on the matter of stabilizing CO2 emissions noted that:

The European Economic Community and its Member States declare that the commitment to limit anthropogenic CO2 emissions set out in Article 4 (2) of the Convention will be fulfilled in the Community as a whole through action by the Community and its Member States, within the respective competence of each. (Official Journal of the EC, 1993, p. 28)

Until the implementation of the Rio Convention (sanctioned as starting 90 days after the signature deposition of the 50th party), international talks on climate policy continued, but due to the European economic recession of the early 1990s, the EC joined the section of the laggard states (together with the US) in delaying implementation strategies for carbon abatement and reduction of pollutants in key industrial areas. The Conferences of the Parts among the Rio treaty signatories, also known as COP, therefore initially proved ineffective due to the recalcitrance of both the American superpower and the European Community. At the same time, most developing countries used the platform of the INC-8 to advocate that the Joint Implementation (JI) strategy for the Convention be applied only to developed countries in order not to hinder industrial growth in already economically-underdeveloped regions.

In December 1993, the newly-instituted European Union ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), but EU institutions still lacked coherent implementation strategies for the environmental policy goals envisioned in Rio and underscored in the FCCC. Particularly relevant were the multilateral talks during INC-10 about the political adequacy of the already sanctioned policy paths, in which the German EU Presidency attempted to break the negotiating stalemate between "laggard" and "green" states by tabling a protocol on CO2 emissions to be adopted during the first Conference of the Parts. However, the unpreparedness of many states within the Rio system to commit in the short-term and disagreements on the involvement of developing countries came to define a rather unsatisfactory text. Given the impossibility of making other important polluting countries to commit, in the 1994 Environmental Council, the EU took the lead in favoring proposals to commit to the Convention objectives even past the benchmark year of 2000 and pushing forward the adhesion of Rio signatories to 2005 and 2010 policy goals. However, the JUSCANZ group (Japan, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) promptly blocked EU's leadership by advocating for an expansion of the commitments to the more advanced developing countries, among which fell China – host of the Conference, and as a result, the host country decided to block all discussions and halt the works of the INC (Afionis, 2017).

Subsequently, the EU reiterated its intention of leadership in the field of climate diplomacy by solving the impasse that generated between the JUSCANZ group, which deemed the existing commitments inadequate while not wanting their strengthening, and the Union and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) that instead advocated for strengthening such commitments and extending them beyond 2000. EU diplomats indeed decided to exclude developing countries from environmental policies and measures (PAMs), thus achieving the necessary consensus to sponsor India's Green Paper on improved climate standards and objectives. This proposal was strongly supported by the US that, once realized that the JUSCANZ group had been isolated, actively endorsed the proposal as a sponsor to save at least the Joint Implementation program and avoid excessive competitive disadvantages for the American economy (Afionis, 2017). As a result of the EU-brokered compromise, the Ad-hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate (AGBM), an ad-hoc committee with the goal of negotiating a protocol to be presented at the COP-3 in Kyoto, was created.

The EU ended up participating intensely in the works of the AGBM providing potential PAMs related to carbon abatement and reduction of GHGs, but it found once again the opposition of the US, which instead disagreed with streamlining environmental policies and measures internationally rather than domestically. In 1995, IPCC concluded in its Second Assessment Report that the evidence suggested there was a 'discernible human influence on global climate," confirming the anthropogenic component of climate change that had been continuously questioned by Australia, Russia, and OPEC members. Nevertheless, until the Kyoto Protocol, the EU failed to capitalize on the scientific endorsement of the climate policy the international community had been increasingly focusing on and rather was occupied by internal negotiations on how to allocate the financial burden of carbon abatement among MSs.
The Decades of Climate Commitment: EU's climate leadership from 1997 to 2010
Along with the formal birth of the European Union with the Maastricht Treaty (also called Treaty on the European Union [TEU]) in 1992, climate diplomacy was enshrined within the fundamental legal architecture of the Union as one of the aims of the organization. Based on the principle of conferral, the EU indeed included the protection of the environment and sustainable development as part of its economic integration strategy in Article 3(3) TEU, while including the claim that "[e]nvironmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Union's policies and activities, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development" in Article 11 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and defining the broader issue of environmental protection as a shared competence between the Union and Member States (Article 4(2)(e) TFEU). Most importantly, no clause in either the TEU or the TFEU states that the promotion of amelioration of environmental conditions is limited to EU's internal territory, hence sanctioning that the past EC line of promotion and leadership in climate diplomacy not only can provide a major geopolitical role to the organization but is also formally a competence and objective of the Union – Eckes (2013) defines this legal framework a "strong mandate to pursue climate change mitigation policy, including through external action" (p. 195). Besides, the European Commission was expanded with two ad-hoc Directorate Generals (DGs), respectively for the environment (DG Environment) and climate change mitigation (DG Clima), that could devote the institutional resources of the Union towards drafting innovative PAMs to sustain the green efforts of the EU's political bodies.

In light of this strengthened mandate for climate policy, the EU played a pivotal role in advocating for tighter emission policies until the setup of the Kyoto climate regime to the extent that some claim that "without the EU's determined leadership in the 1990s there would not have been a Kyoto Protocol" (Wurzel & Connelly, 2011, p. 272). The EU was the proponent of the deepest emission cuts and accepted the highest carbon abatement objectives (- 8%) among developed countries, while at the same time advocating for a system of what Oberthür & Kelly (2008) identify as "environmental integrity" (p. 36) – demanding priority for a limited usage of forests and other carbon extraction resources.

The Kyoto GHG emissions reduction regime indeed mimicked the Union in its mechanisms of differentiated target-setting, by identifying maximum limits of GHG emissions and deadlines by which those limits had to be reached, and self-reporting on the implementation progress, which is often used in order to enhance compliance with EU directives in the Old Continent (Eckes, 2013). Moreover, the schemes of Joint Implementation between economically developed and low-income countries had been the result of EU's advocacy for a fair sanction system, enforced by the Kyoto Compliance Committee, that figured also in EU's mandate to "foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty," enshrined in Articles 21(2)(d) and 21(2)(f) TEU. In establishing the Kyoto climate platform, however, the Union failed through climate diplomacy to defuse the logic of reciprocity among the biggest polluters, i.e. China and the US, in accepting binding targets within short timeframes (Eckes, 2013). The main obstacle for the success of EU's climate diplomacy and environmental policy leadership was indeed to render the idea that the fight against climate change is mainly a matter of global response, and not diplomatic or commitment symmetry, as evident as possible. In this respect, the organization fell short of the necessary determination and diplomatic assertiveness to persuade China and the US, responsible for more than 75% of global GHG emissions as of 1997, to adopt asymmetrical and binding commitments. Overall, despite its efforts, the EU had a "comparatively limited impact" in the Kyoto climate system (Oberthür & Kelly, 2008, p. 36) since laggard nations - first and foremost the United States - maintained a strong say in the negotiations despite an abyssal ambition gap.

The European Union's climate leadership, however, managed to be reinstated in March 2001, when the EU secured the Protocol's entry into force by promoting the Marrakech Accords, which included implementation rules for the Kyoto agreement despite the fully-fledged opposition of the Bush Administration to the Protocol. Rather than forcing other international actors into wholly supporting the nascent climate protection system – may it be for EU's lack of political and economic leverage to actually force other international actors to fight climate change or for EU's image as a civilian power "in pursuit of a rule-based global governance" (Oberthür & Kelly, 2008, p. 37), the EU focused on a model of soft and directional leadership by becoming an implementation model for other non-compliant States and by exercising guidance by example, diplomacy, persuasion, and argumentation.

In such a directional model of leadership, the EU's climate diplomatic power was further strengthened when in 2003 its climate policy was equipped with one of the centerpieces of European fight against climate change: The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Established by the Emissions Trading Directive (2003/87/EC), the ETS nowadays sets limits for about 40% of the total CO2 emissions of EU Member states by granting a limited number of allowances for carbon emissions, to which several directives about environmental protection shortly followed.

Yet, the problematic lack of unity among EU MSs came again to the surface when in 2009 the Union failed to include binding objectives for GHGs reductions in the Copenhagen Accord. The organization's guidance fell short also at the Cancun Agreements in 2010, which adopted the 2° Celsius global temperature alteration as an upper-bound benchmark, and yet the EU failed to include legally binding commitments on any of the signatories.
Intensifying efforts in the green agenda (2011 – 2014)
In 2011, the European Union joined other international actors in extending the Kyoto Protocol regime past its original commitment period at the Durban Platform and started the negotiation process for a post-2020 climate amelioration regime (Eckes, 2013). Nevertheless, the issue of differentiation was yet to be solved. The Durban Platform did not include nor mention the Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CDRRC) principle, and rather "envisage[d] an 'agreed outcome with legal force' applicable to all countries" (Eckes, 2013, p. 200) potentially inferring that the EU-promoted issue of global North-South differentiation in the climate regime might have been ground for future obligations of emissions reduction among developing countries. In 2012, the EU became the first party to the UNFCCC to table proposals for GHG reductions that exceeded the Kyoto projections, while at the same time pledging to increase the use of RES-based energy by the benchmark year of 2020. Its directional leadership was aiming to prove that "building a low-carbon economy could be compatible with energy security, economic growth, and competitiveness" (Humphreys, 2018, p. 111) as well as to build international credibility, instrumental in strengthening the power of EU's climate diplomacy when advocating for more stringent environmental accountability in international fora.

The Union attempted to boost its guidance in climate diplomacy, with a view to COP-21 in Paris, by expanding its ETS to Australia's new carbon market system in 2015 and planning to include countries such as South Korea, China, Switzerland, and California (Humphreys, 2018). Such attempt floundered to generate positive outcomes since the credibility built through its own ETS was not sufficient for the EU to galvanize a target-increasing accord at the 2009 Copenhagen Conference, where the organization was isolated by climate-reluctant countries (the US, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa) that drafted and adopted a document aimed to drop any reference to the legally binding nature of future negotiations. Prior to Paris, the main strength of the Union was that of rousing international consensus around a multilateral, legally-outlined, and rule-based climate roadmap, and as a result of Copenhagen's disastrous outcome EU's policy proposals started to gravitate around the average consensus among major geopolitical powers rather than aiming to push other parties towards more stringent norms.

Yet, in exercising its lead in climate policy, the European Union had to face the monumental mission of coordinating the positions of the then twenty-eight Member States in fields – environmental policy and sustainable development - of shared competence. Some scholars claim that those difficulties are the result of coalescing EU's "historic commitment to economic development with its new concern to protect the environment" (Baker et al., 1997, p. 28-9), and thus that EU's attempted leadership would only factor as a form of "symbolic politics" (Vanden Brande, 2008, p. 173-4).
The Paris Agreement system
At the 2015 Paris negotiations, the European Union had already internalized the Copenhagen debacle and its group of lead negotiators immediately began to survey interest groups with the aim of creating a solid base of support for the nascent Paris Accord. Unlike in previous international conferences, the EU's internal interest heterogeneity was steadily controlled thanks to intensive works of internal policy negotiations prior to Paris (Oberthür & Groen, 2018). In 2015, the EU and its MS had already implemented a climate diplomacy action plan through the European External Action Service (EEAS) to coordinate outreach of the diplomatic operations at both the national and the European level, with European government leaders playing a pivotal role in gathering quasi-formal and informal agreements on climate policy prior to the XXI Conference of the Parts (e.g. German Chancellor A. Merkel's leverage on the G7 to adopt decarbonization by 2100; French President Hollande's joint declaration with China; French and German proposals of investments in Indian solar energy) (Oberthür & Groen, 2018).

With downscaled ambitions, the Union convened to focus on demanding transparency and accountability, as well as an "ambition mechanism" that could empower signatories of the Paris Accord to take steps further in GHG emissions reduction policies if willing to (Obergassel et al., 2016, p. 34), whilst maintaining the status of most active proponent within the entire Paris system. EU negotiators partook in other forums such as the G20, the informal cabinet meetings arranged by the French COP-21 presidency, and bilateral contacts. A crucial section of EU's efforts focused on two key consensus-seeking strategies: coalition-building (mentioned above), and bridge-building. While the first concerned the development of the diplomatic links already established with the 2010 Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action with UK, Australia, and ambitious developing country, the second process attempted to create solid foundations for the ratification of the Paris Accord. In the former case, the EU spearheaded together with the Marshall Islands the creation of a "high ambition coalition" that could promote more aspiring environmental policy designs. In the latter strategy, the Union committed to increasing its financial contributions to the climate regime in the 2014-2015 period – coming to be the "most active among developed countries in providing assistance to nearly 100 developing countries for elaborating climate action plans" (Oberthür & Groen, 2018, p. 721)

Besides, the Paris Agreement of 2015 overall reflected EU's preferences, inasmuch as it enshrined mitigation commitments for all the parties of the Accord as well as the binding submission of incrementally more ambitious mitigation targets, whilst their achievement remained legally not-binding (Minas, 2018). A novel element of EU's climate diplomacy in Paris was the restoration of the US' leadership in climate mitigation PAMs, which pushed the two agents to exercise mutually-supporting complementary leadership throughout the negotiations. Particularly important within the Paris framework was the EU's promotion of technology development at the national and international levels. This factor did not only become a key element of policy implementation through schemes of subsidies for research and development in weaker economies, but also a means through which North-South, South-South, and triangular cooperation could prosper (Minas, 2018).

In Paris, EU-28 pursued reformist policy goals, and tabled the highest mitigation objective earlier in March proposing a GHG emission reduction of 40% minimum from the 1990 levels by 2030 in the Union. The new economic environment of what Oberthür & Groen (2018) define "new climate economy" (p. 717) indeed contributed to supporting the aspiration of EU member states as renewable energy and other technological innovations had experienced a decline in prices and were becoming progressively commercialized. Yet, EU's policy objectives could also be deemed moderate, since they only evened (or in some cases did not amount to) the targets proposed by some specific developing country groupings (Oberthür & Groen, 2018). Lastly, it is important to notice that the previously mentioned policy path of moderation was maintained in streamlining goals with the other major players (China and the US above all).

EU's New Leadership for the 2020s: Von der Leyen's New Green Deal (2020)
EU's post-Paris leadership has been reiterated through the European commitment to producing the most ambitious environmental policy plan among the largest carbon emitters worldwide in 2020. At the eve of Ursula von der Leyen's election to President of the European Commission back in July 2019, the hopes for strengthened efforts in the green agenda of the Union were significantly high in light of the overwhelming resurgence of the Greens in the May European Parliament elections. It might be telling that, in the Political Guidelines based on which the former German Minister of Defence was nominated by the Commission, the first priority presented to the readers out of the six included in the document was indeed the European Green Deal.

Criticized since its very presentation in July due to an overall €1 trillion of sustainable finance investment vis-à-vis the €2.6 trillion invested in the banking system during 2009 global recession and €2.6 trillion printed by the ECB to help economies recover after the financial distress (Varoufakis & Adler, 2020), von der Leyen Commission's green agenda is today far from being in line with the overly ambitious statements of the European Commission (EUCO) President. The European Green Deal, presented as initially declared within the novel Commissions' first 100 days, includes measures that could radically transform EU's economy by 2050. The specific delivery of those policies is however increasingly casting doubts given Eastern European economies' reliance on carbon-intensive industries (Poland above all), and the overall budget of the Union devoted to the climate emergency is forecasted to only increase by less than €10 billion a year ("The Commission's 100-day report card," 2020). This in particular led international think tanks focused on environmentalism and sustainability (European Environment Bureau [EEB], 2019) to blame von der Leyen's exploitation of "reshuffled money from already existing EU funds" (Varoufakis & Adler, 2020).

As per the €1 trillion of additional funds to be invested through the Sustainable Europe Investment Fund by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement goals, no concrete results have been achieved yet. In the negotiations of the 2019-2024 multi-annual financial framework, Eurosceptic forces' demands for a reduction in national contributions and now the continental investments to relieve Europeans from the short-term economic impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic have taken central stage (Oroschakoff, 2020). This non-compliance with the Paris Accord timeline further risks jeopardizing EU's climate diplomacy since it could structurally affect its international credibility in proposing future climate amelioration and emissions reduction goals.

Among other policy initiatives, worth of mention is the policy design of the Just Transition Fund (via already-existing Cohesion Funds) and the adoption of the European Climate Law – EU's first climate regulation to enshrine the Union's pledge to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2050, which however did not lead to substantial steps forward in von der Leyen's plans nor did it confer greater powers to the Commission in enacting its green agenda. Minor yet crucial promises concerning circular economy, a new biodiversity strategy, and sustainable rural growth are still in the negotiating stages as of May 2020, but major setbacks and delays on those are expected due to EUCO President's unwillingness to tamper with the Common Agricultural Policy.

The Carbon Border Tax - aimed to reduce the phenomenon of "carbon leakage" and induce more sustainable paradigms of production in EU's trading partners - is also unlikely to be delivered in the close future due to the ambiguous stance of the World Trade Organization on the imposition of environmental tariffs and the concrete international repercussions on international trade and, arguably, to EU's own competitiveness (Beattie, 2019).
An uncertain future for the EU's climate leadership
In the international diplomatic field, the issue of enforcement is still to date one of the core weaknesses that menace to hinder EU's climate diplomacy as well as its credibility as a promoter of stringent environmental PAMs (policies and measures). The organization's approach at the Paris Accord conveyed the perception that sustainable development in its external relations only responded to "a symbolic Treaty requirement, encouraging the promotion, but not the enforcement, of sustainable development objectives" (Humphreys, 2018, p. 142).

The failure to reach previously established climate goals could not only have negative political fallout for the Union but also damage its credibility and constitute a dangerous precedent for environmental-policy recalcitrant States to return to old, unsustainable development standards. In order to avert such backlash, a transition from the EU as a soft power to a concrete, goal-compliant, and proactive promoter of sustainable development, especially in third world countries, appears like the optimum solution. In short, "[i]t is in Europe's interest to preserve its identity as a leader in sustainable development, but must demonstrate that it is willing and able to maintain this role" (Vanden Brande, 2008, p. 170).

In the final analysis, we can additionally identify four types of EU leadership in climate diplomacy. First, the Union has been lacking structural leadership, also defined as 'economic weight' leadership, since it has not mobilized its economic power as the single largest integrated market worldwide to exercise leverage against other international actors in the negotiating process. Such deficiency became particularly evident at the 1992 Rio Conference and the 2009 Copenhagen COP-15 and ended in generating landmark diplomatic debacles for the EU. However, it is important to underscore that it is thanks to EU's structural leadership that agreements such as the Paris Accord and the Kyoto Protocol succeeded in the first place (Wurzel et al., 2016). Further developments of this dimension of EU's climate diplomacy will be pivotal for the success of multilateral negotiations to ensure the implementation of the Paris Agreement and envision the 2050 goals with legally binding targets.

Second, the EU has developed entrepreneurial leadership capability throughout the course of its climate diplomatic efforts. Even though some argue that "the EU is clearly ill suited to a strictly entrepreneurial style of leadership … [because n]egotiations for the EU…have more limited scope for entrepreneurial action than representatives of equally weighty nation-states" (Grubb and Gupta, 2000, p. 19-20), others (Wurzel et al., 2016) maintain that the European Union possesses the significant potential to generate entrepreneurial actions through its intergovernmental representation in EU institutions and their negotiating power via the economic interests of the single MSs. However, such nation-based climate activity has seemingly endangered positive outcomes in past climate negotiations, while EU unity has had a positive impact on the achievement of landmark accords on stringent emissions abatement goals. Such entrepreneurial leadership can be therefore developed in the future to approach more staunching and recalcitrant States through an individual national profile basis through bilateral negotiations (which have proven more effective in the cases of US and China, above all), while being deployed as an instrument of EU diplomatic unity when in multilateral fora.

Third, the EU has established itself as one of the cognitive leaders of climate diplomacy thanks to the EUCO's ability to "draw together research and policy approaches and to weld them into innovative EU policy proposals" (Wurzel et al., 2016, p. 292). While the Commission has pursued climate policy as an exclusively environmental matter, the EU's Council of Ministers and the European Council have underscored that energetic policy, economic growth, and environmental standards are interconnected global challenges that demand a holistic solution at the global level. It is evident furthermore that the scientific support to the EU policy path has strengthened EU's negotiating power in international meetings (Wurzel et al., 2016).

Last, as previously highlighted, the EU has attempted to become a model and positive paradigm for other actors to imitate when it comes to economic growth and climate protection by pursuing a model of exemplary leadership. Partly, this form of leadership can be considered unintentional especially in policy areas such as energy policy and RES-based energy production where EU Member States (first and foremost Scandinavian countries) act as pioneers for the green industry and environmental protection autonomously. At the intergovernmental level instead, we can notice a level of desired, or intentional, exemplary leadership in pursuing ambitious policy objectives in order to push other hesitant States to their own negotiating limits and reach a common ground. The development of the EU's internal policies is likely to be of vital significance in establishing its international credibility and, in turn, its efficacy in climate diplomacy.
In summary, it can be argued that the European Union has the potential to become an optimal platform to negotiate policy solutions to the pressing issue of climate change. Its four leadership components in climate diplomacy, paired with strong economic leverage and a try-and error approach in international negotiations, have rendered the EU a strong – if not the strongest – leader of environmental policy worldwide vis-à-vis major international agents that are still reluctant to commit to greener standards (e.g. China and the US). Having inherited a noticeable history of environmental negotiations from the European Community, the Union has been attempting to galvanize international consensus by creating ambition-driven interest groups, exploiting the national economic interests of its own Member States, and investing in epistemic support to its climate diplomacy in order to table scientifically sound and politically acceptable proposals. In the international negotiating platforms, the EU has been an incredibly crucial actor by underscoring the importance of linking environmental issue with energy policy and economic growth models, while at the same time advocating for a global – not national – response to the global threat of climate change. Even though major weaknesses in von der Leyen's New Green Deal could weaken EU's exemplary leadership worldwide in climate diplomacy, upon resolution of structural flaws in the Union's environmental policy such as heterogeneity of national interests and failure to deliver on internationally-set goals, it can be argued that there is a positive outlook for the organization's capability to generate positive outcomes in climate diplomacy in the future.
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