Is the European Parliament an Environmental Champion?

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Politics

Abstract

Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

Publications

10 25 50

publication icon
Great Britain: Parliament: House Of Lords: European Union Committee (2009) Codecision and National Parliamentary Scrutiny: 17th Report of Session 2008-09 Report with Evidence

publication icon
Wurzel, R Diger (University Of Hull, UK); Connelly, School Of Human Sciences And Communication James, Dr (University Of Hull, UK Southampton Institute University Of Hull, UK University Of Hull, UK University Of Hull, UK University Of Hull, UK University Of Hull, UK University Of Hull, UK University Of Hull, UK University Of Hull, UK University Of Hull, UK) (2010) The European Union as a Leader in International Climate Change Politics

 
Description The environmental crisis is one of the key political challenges of the 21st century, and its resolution will require leadership and vision from political actors. Our task as social scientists is to evaluate and analyse the behaviour of those actors over time and to subject their claims to engage in 'green' behaviour to rigorous empirical scrutiny.

In our project we have analysed the behaviour of a political actor that has long been identified as a champion of environmental policy, the European Parliament (EP), in order to determine if its reputation is deserved, what shapes its behaviour and whether its environmental record has changed over time. The European Union (EU) is one of the principal sources of progressive environmental policy in Europe and the EP is one of the three key policy-making actors in the EU, it is the only directly elected EU institution, and it has the power to amend and reject legislation that affects up to 500 million people. Hence, the EP's actions have a daily effect upon the lives of EU citizens, and upon environmental policy output.
Whilst the EP has an established reputation as a positive force for environmental change in the EU, there has been no comprehensive study of how the Parliament behaves when dealing with environmental legislation. Indeed, existing studies of the EP's environmental record tend to be skewed by a focus upon the behaviour of its environment committee, rather than the Parliament's plenary as a whole, and to analyse individual case studies of legislation where the EP has made a positive contribution. Our project rectifies this imbalance by evaluating all EP plenary amendments addressed to environmental legislation adopted under codecision (a
procedure in which the EP and the Council of Ministers are co-legislators) over a ten year period from 1999 to 2009, using a typology that ranks amendments in terms of their level of environmental importance. Statistical analysis of the dataset has been combined with qualitative interview data and expert views gleaned from a practitioner seminar, thereby providing a rounded portrayal of the EP's environmental behaviour.

The analysis we have carried out is groundbreaking both in terms of its breadth and methodology. To date no-one has attempted such an ambitious review of the EP's environmental behaviour and our hope is that our project findings will inform future work upon the environmental behaviour of both the EP and other legislatures. We have analysed 7,094 amendments adopted by the European Parliament's plenary to 113 pieces of environmental legislation between 1999 and 2009. Each amendment has been awarded a score for its environmental ambition, its legislative importance, and the degree to which it was adopted by the Commission and Council. Through
statistical analysis we have been able to determine that the greener that an amendment is the less likely it is to find its way into EU legislation. We have found that the EP proposed more of its most environmentally radical amendments and more of its amendments that we judged to be negative for the environment, to air quality legislation. In addition by analysing amendments from two sessions of the EP preceding and succeeding enlargement we have been able to show that the EP's behaviour has changed over time: it has become both less radical and more successful since 2004.

We identify a number of explanations for our findings. The patterns of distribution of the EP's amendments (more strong and negatives on air quality) suggest to us that
environmental policy fits with classic understandings of regulatory policy. Where the costs of regulation are high and concentrated upon powerful interest groups (as is the case with air quality) there will be efforts to reduce or mitigate those costs - hence the high numbers of negative amendments. But where the benefits are diffuse, and the
costs of not having regulation are high and diffuse (also the case with air quality) there will be incentives to adopt more stringent regulations (hence the high levels of stronger amendments). Equally the enlargement of the EU to admit states that are less economically developed is likely to have added to pressure to weaken legislation - which provides part of the explanation for the shift in behaviour over time that we
have observed. Another key explanation for that changing behaviour is the intensification and consolidation of informal norms of decision-making under the codecision procedure. We identify a number of explanations for our findings. The patterns of distribution of the EP's amendments (more strong and negatives on air quality) suggest to us that environmental policy fits with classic understandings of regulatory policy. Where the costs of regulation are high and concentrated upon powerful interest groups (as is the case with air quality) there will be efforts to reduce or mitigate those costs - hence the
high numbers of negative amendments. But where the benefits are diffuse, and the costs of not having regulation are high and diffuse (also the case with air quality) there will be incentives to adopt more stringent regulations (hence the high levels of stronger amendments). Equally the enlargement of the EU to admit states that are less economically developed is likely to have added to pressure to weaken legislation -
which provides part of the explanation for the shift in behaviour over time that we have observed. Another key explanation for that changing behaviour is the intensification and consolidation of informal norms of decision-making under the codecision procedure. We identify a number of explanations for our findings. The patterns of distribution of
the EP's amendments (more strong and negatives on air quality) suggest to us that environmental policy fits with classic understandings of regulatory policy. Where the costs of regulation are high and concentrated upon powerful interest groups (as is the case with air quality) there will be efforts to reduce or mitigate those costs - hence the high numbers of negative amendments. But where the benefits are diffuse, and the costs of not having regulation are high and diffuse (also the case with air quality) there will be incentives to adopt more stringent regulations (hence the high levels of stronger amendments). Equally the enlargement of the EU to admit states that are less economically developed is likely to have added to pressure to weaken legislation - which provides part of the explanation for the shift in behaviour over time that we
have observed. Another key explanation for that changing behaviour is the intensification and consolidation of informal norms of decision-making under the codecision procedure. The European Parliament and Council now increasingly meet
behind closed doors in informal meetings and the EP's plenary is used to endorse deals made in those meetings. The EP's plenary amendments are the product of inter-institutional negotiations hence their diminished radicalism and increased success. Whilst the EP may be more successful in securing amendments into legislation the use of informal meetings potentially excludes smaller parties and outsider groups
from negotiations.

Overall, our findings suggest to us that the EP is not an
environmental champion of heroic proportions, attempting to strengthen legislation in
radical ways, but it is at least trying to push a progressive environmental agenda and
at times it has been an important counterweight to a less progressive Council.
Exploitation Route 1. The broad quantitative analysis could be extended to examine the 2009-2014 EP session, where there is evidence that the number of negative environmental proposals proposed and accepted by the EP increased.

2. Viviene Gravey (UEA) is currently applying the innovative Burns/Carter framework to CAP.
A similar approach has been used by Ariadne Ripoll-Servent to examine civil liberties in the EU. She also finds evidence of declining radicalism in the EP. This suggests that there may be scope for comparative analysis examining other policy areas.

3. Detailed qualitative case studies of individual pieces of legislation could be undertaken to examine the reasons for EP actions in greater depth.

4. The innovative Burns/Carter framework for categorizing EP amendments could be applied to other legislatures in nation states (and at sub-national level).
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

URL http://www.esrc.ac.uk/my-esrc/grants/RES-000-22-2304/read
 
Description Dr Charlotte Burns (CI) was invited to contribute written evidence, developed from this project, to a House of Lords report into the co-decision procedure in the European Union.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Title European Parliament Environmental Amendments, 1999-2009 
Description The European Union (EU) is one of the principal sources of progressive environmental policy in Europe and the European Parliament (EP) is one of the three key policy-making actors in the EU. It is the only directly elected EU institution, and it has the power to amend and reject legislation that affects up to 500,000,000 people. Hence, the EP's actions have a daily effect upon the lives of EU citizens, and upon environmental policy output. Whilst the EP has an established reputation as a positive force for environmental change in the EU, there has been no comprehensive study of how the Parliament behaves when dealing with environmental legislation. Indeed, existing studies of the EP's environmental record tend to be skewed by a focus upon the behaviour of its environment committee, rather than the Parliament's plenary as a whole, and to analyse individual case studies of legislation where the EP has made a positive contribution. This study rectifies this imbalance by evaluating all EP plenary amendments addressed to environmental legislation adopted under co-decision over a ten year period. The researchers have analysed 7,094 amendments adopted by the EP's plenary to 113 pieces of environmental legislation between 1999 and 2009. Each amendment has been awarded a score for its environmental ambition, its legislative importance, and the degree to which it was adopted by the European Commission and European Council. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2010 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact It has been used in several academic articles 
URL http://discover.ukdataservice.ac.uk/catalogue/?sn=6396&type=Data%20catalogue