Between the USA and the South: Strategic choices for European climate policy

F. Biermann

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article discusses Europe's strategic choices in current climate policy. It argues that the future climate governance architecture must pass four tests: credibility, stability, flexibility, and inclusiveness. Drawing on this, I review the strategic choices for Europe, structured around three levels of analysis in political science: climate polity, that is, the larger institutional and legal context of policy making; climate policy, the instruments and targets that governments agree to implement; and climate politics, the actual negotiation process. At each level of analysis, I look at the interests and expectations of two non-European actors or actor groups: the USA, which accounts for over a third of all Northern greenhouse gas emissions, and the group of developing countries, which accounts for the vast majority of humankind. I argue that Europe must take clear principled positions on a number of key issues, in particular the need to have a strong multilateral framework as the sole and core institutional setting for climate policy and to accept the principle of equal per-capita emissions entitlements as the long-term normative bedrock of global climate governance. Both positions, however, will alienate the USA, and both will make it more difficult for the USA to rejoin the international community on the climate issue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-290
Number of pages18
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Bibliographical note

Special issue: Climate policy options post-2012: European strategy, technology and adaptation after Kyoto. Guest editors: Bert Metz and Mike Hulme


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