The European Union and the Paris Agreement: leader, mediator, or bystander?

S Oberthur*, L Groen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


After its defeat at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, the EU can be considered to have scored a relative success with the Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015. With the mitigation ambition of the agreement exceeding expectations, the EU realized its policy objectives to a greater extent than it may have anticipated itself. This success was made possible by a moderation of the EU’s policy objectives pursued proactively through an EU bridge-building and coalition-building strategy. It was enabled and facilitated by the great-power politics between China and the US as well as the French Presidency of the Paris conference. With Paris, the EU thus appears to have consolidated its role as a ‘leadiator’ in international climate policy, which it took on after the failure of the Copenhagen conference and road-tested for the first time in Durban in 2011. In a multipolar climate world, this new role model should remain relevant for the years to come. However, the unpredictability of the underlying internal and external political, economic, and technological dynamics suggests the wisdom of a regular review and adjustment of strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere445
Number of pages8
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews-Climate Change
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


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