The European Union (EU) has sought to lead the world in the adoption of ambitious climate change mitigation targets and policies. In an attempt to characterize and broadly explain the resulting pattern of EU climate governance, scholars have employed the term “multi-level reinforcement.” This term does help to account for the paradoxical situation whereby the EU seeks to lead by example but is itself a relatively leaderless system of governance. Drawing on a much fuller empirical account of the evolution of EU climate governance, this article finds that the term captures some but not all aspects of the EU's approach. It identifies four other paradoxical features of the EU's approach and assesses the extent to which they exhibit “multi-level reinforcement.” It concludes by looking forward and examining the extent to which all five features are expected to enable and/or constrain the EU's ability to maintain a leading position in climate governance.

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