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Advancing Ambition

Interests and Arguments in EU Climate Policy-Making


Werner Schäfer

This book explains under which conditions the European Union adopts ambitious domestic climate policies. It presents a theoretical framework that combines insights from rational choice institutionalism and the constructivist literature on political rhetoric. Its main argument is that ambitious sectoral climate policies emerge in situations in which the opponents of such policies run out of socially sustainable arguments to defend their positions. The framework is applied to five case studies of EU climate policy-making concerning cars, buildings, the EU’s emissions trading system (EU ETS), the promotion of renewable energy sources as well as agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.


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In the process of writing this book, I incurred debts to many people. First and foremost, my dissertation advisor Dirk Lehmkuhl and my co-advisor Rolf Wüstenhagen supported me throughout the writing process with feedback, help- ful suggestions, ideas, and continued encouragement. Several friends and col- leagues read and commented on drafts of individual chapters: Mathieu Rousse- lin, Moritz Weiss, Ulrike Baumgärtner, Lyndon Oh, and my sister Anne. Others listened to me rambling through more or less well conceived versions of my argument or provided comments and suggestions along the way: Alexander Heppt, Bernd Bucher, Beatrice Eugster, Christine Scheidegger, Valeria Camia, Matthias Mayer-Schwarzenberger, Peter Platzgummer, Daniele Caramani, and Oliver Strijbis. Sandra Lavenex and participants in the panel on EU affairs at the Swiss Political Science Association’s 2010 Annual Meeting provided helpful input on an early draft of my theoretical and conceptual approach. James Davis and the participants in the University of St. Gallen’s dissertation seminar helped to shape the project by destroying some of my previous ideas. I am also indebted to the many policy-makers and experts who took the time to answer my questions in sometimes very extensive interviews: without them, the empirical part of the book would have been impossible to write. My employer, McKinsey & Company, not only granted me a three year sabbatical to work on my dissertation, but also paid me for one of them. Barbara Zimmermann allowed me to stay in her beautiful house in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the summer of 2010, the seclusion of...

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