CICERO - Center for International Climate Research

Target-group influence and political feasibility: the case of climate policy design in Europe

Tora Skodvin, Anne Therese Gullberg, Stine Aakre

Political feasibility (or infeasibility) is often associated with target-group support (or opposition) of specific policy alternatives. We argue that target-groups’ capacity to influence the spectrum of politically feasible policy options tends to be higher when (1) target groups control resources needed by decision-makers, that (2) are agenda-setters and/or veto players in the decision-making process. In the 2008 revision of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) exemptions from the basic principle of full auctioning of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions allowances can all be traced to target-group interest representation by single veto players or blocking minorities in the European Council and the Council of Ministers. Our analysis indicates that target groups succeeded in constraining the spectrum of politically feasible policy options to the extent that their positions were unified and threats to shut down or relocate activity were perceived to be relevant, severe and credible. Our findings confirm both the significance and the limits of portfolio assignment in the Commission. Even with Directorate General (DG) Environment in an agenda-setting role, target groups acquired exemptions through their relations with veto players in the Council.

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