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date: 25 February 2020

Summary and Keywords

The European Union (EU) has developed an extensive body of environmental policies spanning a wide range of areas. No other international organization shapes the environmental affairs of its members to anywhere near the same extent. However, implementation of environmental policy has remained a persistent challenge, and Europeanization of member states’ environmental policies remains partial. There has not been a wholescale convergence of environmental policy, though the differentiation between leaders and laggards is not as stark as it once was.

The rules, regulations, and policies that make up EU environmental policy have increasingly impacted not only member states but also the wider world, and the EU has emerged as a key player in global environmental politics across a range of policy domains. It has been central to the creation of many international environmental regimes and has integrated environmental issues into a variety of facets of its external relations.

Looking forward, increasingly stark warnings from bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services should raise questions regarding existing responses to environmental challenges, which to a significant extent favor incremental over transformational change. The EU faces the task of responding to these profound challenges against the backdrop of increasing political turbulence at home and abroad. Over the past decade, the EU has been beset by profound challenges that have shaped both its internal and external environmental policies. At home, the EU has been shaken by the global financial crisis as well as the decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the EU. The EU’s external environment is to a growing extent shaped by nativist regimes such as Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, both of whom seem determined to undermine not just the foundations of global environmental governance but the rules-based international order more generally. The coming generation of scholarship on EU environmental policy will need to reflect upon how these competing forces serve to reshape the EU’s environmental policies.

Keywords: European Union, European Union politics, environmental policy, Europeanization, policy instruments, policy implementation, global environmental politics

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