Interest groups and #the European Green Deal An analysis of strategies used to influence European climate policy

Albert Michael Dijkstra & Sisir Bhandari

Studenteropgave: Masterprojekt



As sea levels are rising and weather events are becoming more extreme, globally an increased call for action against climate change can be observed. On December 11th 2019 the European Commission introduced their plans for a European Green Deal. It is a package of legislation ranging through all relevant policy areas to enshrine climate neutrality, arrange the transition fairly and set more ambitious emission targets than earlier strategies. The European Green Deal targets to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2030, which is currently set for 2050. It is the most ambitious climate policy of its scope in the world, and therefore understanding how this policy was formed can provide valuable lessons for other parts of the world attempting to do the same. During the creation of European Green Deal different groups try to influence the policy in their favour. This study aims to illustrate what interests groups are trying to achieve, and how they act, as this furthers our understanding of how climate policy is formed. Understanding this creates a deeper understanding of how the European Union will attempt to combat climate change and what the challenges ahead are. That is why this project aims to answer the research question: How do European Green Deal interest groups attempt to influence the policy process? 

How the European Green Deal should be financed one of the major policy fights, both between member states and within the political groupings of the European Parliament. Between countries, there is the question on whether funding should prioritise poorer member states, member states that have historically emitted less carbon, or whether the burden should be carried by everyone equally. In European Parliament right-wing parties argue for less spending whereas left parties argue for increased public spending to protect poorer citizens against increased energy costs and job losses. Energy security is another major field of conflict, with some countries afraid that by turning away from fossil fuels they become to dependent on Russian gas. To overcome this the European Green Deal could increasing connectivity, allow nuclear power generation or accept lower emission targets from these member states, which could increase the costs or threaten the Green New Deal altogether. Combined with questions about how the Green New Deal will be funded, what financial reforms have to be made and the overall emission targets shows that there is plenty of room in the green deal for interest groups to make a difference.

This paper uses case studies to illustrate how different categories of interest groups act in the policy arena. A key concept in this paper is the difference between outside lobbyism and inside lobbyism, where the former is much more public. Inside lobbying is defined by how much “direct access”, defined as face-to-face meetings, groups have with policy makers. Outside lobbying is the attempt to influence the public sphere through means of media publications, and devoting resources to drawing attention to the policy debate. Economic interests are more inclined to focus on inside lobbying, as they have little need to convince the general population of a certain policy. Governmental institutional interests can use both methods. Within the EU, public and governmental institutional interests tend to be very transparent as these are subject to scrutiny by national parliaments. A major caveat in these distinction are that it cannot study non-associational interests in climate change policy, which have expanded rapidly in the last few years. Especially Gretta Thunberg’s initiative Fridays For Future has been very successful in creating public support for further action against climate change.

The World Wildlife Fund is a public interest group that lobbies mostly using outside lobbyism, through a very active media campaign and using grassroots activism for gathering public attention to the issue. Business Europe is a economic interest group that focuses much more on inside lobbyism such as meetings with high-ranking officials and public consultations. The results show that with an increasing prominence of climate change policy, Business Europe also took on an increased interest in inside lobbying.
At the same time, they are much less visible in the public sphere than the WWF. This can be attributed to more internal division within the organization which forces it to take less extreme positions to avoid alienating its membership, whereas the WWF’s membership is much more united. The World Wildlife Fund attracts almost exclusively members who are interested in combatting climate change and protecting wildlife, so they tend to be able to take extreme positions on climate change policy without fear of losing members. The Polish government is a good example of a very active governmental institutional group. They adapt a very public outside lobbyism strategy in their own country and an inside lobbyism strategy in the European Council aimed at weakening emission targets.

UddannelserGlobal Studies, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato17 dec. 2019
Antal sider25
VejledereTomas Skov Lauridsen