As Time goes by: EU Climate Change Actorness from Rio to Copenhagen

Item Reference: 
BRIGG 2011/3
Publication Date: 
Publication Place: 
Publication Language: 
College of Europe / UNU-CRIS
Series Title: 
BRIGG Working Papers
Working Paper Type: 

During the past two decades the European Union (EU) has increasingly come to be recognised as an important international actor in environmental politics. The failure of the EU to instigate an ambitious post-2012 environmental framework agreement at the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen in 2009 may, however, signal a change in the EU’s status as an international climate change actor. It raises the question of which conditions allowed the EU to be an actor in the first place. Drawing on the theoretical concept of actorness, the paper analyses the conditions for EU actorness in the area of climate change. It will be argued that for the EU to be an actor, all four criteria of actorness – recognition, authority, cohesion and autonomy – need to be present. While these criteria were present at the 1992 Rio Summit and the COP3 in Kyoto in 1997, a lack of autonomy and cohesion prevented the EU from being an international actor in Copenhagen.