Climate Change Policies an Ocean Apart: EU & US Climate Change Policies Compared

Pennsylvania State Environmental Law Review, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 435-482, Spring 2006

48 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2010

See all articles by Cinnamon Piñon Carlarne

Cinnamon Piñon Carlarne

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law

Date Written: 2006


Global climate change is one of the most pressing environmental issues of the Twenty-first Century. Climate change threatens the integrity of the natural environment as well as the physical and social stability of the human environment. Current research focuses on the existence of global climate change, the legitimacy and integrity of the international climate change regime, and the development of national climate change programs. Much of this research concentrates on the authority and efficacy of the Kyoto Protocol. Since the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC came into effect in February 2005, countries all over the world have intensified their efforts to develop comprehensive national systems to meet their Kyoto obligations or, as with the United States, to meet their own national climate change goals.

Between now and the first Kyoto compliance period (2008-2012), nations will undoubtedly focus considerable attention on developing effective climate change policies. There is, however, a dearth of research examining the diverse tactics that regions are using to combat climate change. Regional climate change programs are growing in a seemingly haphazard manner within diverse and highly localized political and legal environments.

In order to ensure the success of the Kyoto Protocol and the success of future international efforts to effectively manage climate change, there is an urgent need for comprehensive analysis of the disparate legal and political strategies the key actors are using. Alternative policies to address global climate change are being debated and used throughout the international community, but there is no objective data on the best political or scientific policies. Understanding the root causes of the successes and failures of these various regional approaches will significantly facilitate the formulation of effective long-term climate change policies. The United States (US) and the European Union (EU) provide an appropriate context for analyzing why and how national climate change policies differ and for evaluating the successes and failures of disparate approaches in both the short and long-term. As two of the wealthiest and most influential political entities in global politics and two of the heaviest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, the actions of the European Union and the United States will profoundly impact both the ability of developed countries to meet their initial Kyoto obligations and the willingness of the developing world to become equal partners in the struggle against climate change. Thus, early leadership by the European Union and the United States is critical to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and coordinating future global climate change efforts. Accordingly, this article will analyze the substantive and theoretical differences between the US and the EU’s climate change policies. As it compares and analyzes the policy regimes, this article will take as its basic premise that effective climate change regimes require participation in binding international regimes and a combination of mandatory regulations and voluntary regimes, rather than policies based on voluntary participation, further research, and delayed obligations.

This article represents but a small step in the research and analysis that must be done. The goal of this article is simply to begin the process of assessing, comparing, and analyzing highly disparate political and legal approaches to managing climate change. One of the key rationales for this research is to provide policymakers with cogent and reliable data for use in formulating effective climate change policies. To this end, this article aims to analyze the basic principles of the climate change policies in practice, then to compare the policies and, finally, briefly to begin to examine some of the underlying reasons for the policy differences. This article is not intended to provide an exhaustive analysis of regional climate change policies. Rather, it is intended to introduce the basic principles and key differences of the US and EU climate change policies.

Keywords: climate change

Suggested Citation

Carlarne, Cinnamon Piñon, Climate Change Policies an Ocean Apart: EU & US Climate Change Policies Compared (2006). Pennsylvania State Environmental Law Review, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 435-482, Spring 2006, Available at SSRN:

Cinnamon Piñon Carlarne (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law ( email )

55 West 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States

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