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The impact of internal and external legal constraints on the EU's pursuit of climate coherence

Pander Maat, E. (2024). The impact of internal and external legal constraints on the EU's pursuit of climate coherence. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Climate coherence - the integration of climate objectives along the horizontal and internal-external axis of EU law - is one of the EU’s most pressing legal obligations. To fulfil this obligation, climate externalization - the externalization of internal climate measures - has rapidly become a centrepiece of the EU’s legislative agenda. However, internal and external legal constraints create two inherent tensions which inhibit the feasibility of the pursuit of climate coherence. On the one hand, within EU law, the legal delineation of policy fields is juxtaposed with the obligation to transcend them. On the other hand, whereas climate coherence compels the EU to extend the reach of climate measures beyond EU borders, this reach exposes it to conflict with several norms of international law. Climate coherence is thus a convoluted obligation. This thesis demonstrates that legal constraints, and the trade-offs they present, significantly impact the ability of the European Court of Justice, the Commission, the Parliament and the Council to pursue climate coherence in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). The institutions are particularly restricted in their room for maneuvre by external constraints, with which they have a less reciprocal relation than with internal constraints. Nonetheless, the trade-offs created by either set of constraints can be thus difficult to navigate that the institutions are unable to put forward interpretations or adopt measures which they see as vital for climate coherence, as demonstrated by compromises made in legislative positions or the deadlock of certain policy fields. Alternatively, the institutions are met with legal friction when they do propose said interpretations or adopt measures, as illustrated by the forced withdrawal or (expected) legal challenges of adopted interpretations and measures. Further legal friction is inevitable if the EU’s climate ambition increases. However, the thesis illuminates that if the institutions converge in their approaches, they could alleviate legal friction and improve their ability to pursue climate coherence. Whilst this appears easier for internal constraints, the Treaty amendment necessary to amend the greatest obstacles to climate coherence will be challenging. By contrast, legal friction with external constraints can be considerably decreased by a more balanced approach which especially avoids the (semblance of) non-climate objectives. The impact of legal constraints on the EU institutions’ ability to pursue climate coherence is thus significant and restrictive, but partly malleable. Nonetheless, concerted efforts are required to safeguard the future feasibility of climate coherence in EU law.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
K Law > K Law (General)
Departments: The City Law School > Academic Programmes
The City Law School > The City Law School Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Pander-Maat thesis 2024 PDF-A.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible until 31 May 2027 due to copyright restrictions.


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