An ambitious climate and energy policy (known colloquially as 20-20-20) was set unanimously by EU leaders in 2007/2008 and enacted into law in 2009. The four authors of this book are committed to exploring the causes and consequences of what they see as “a combined climate and energy policy package that departed significantly from the status quo” (p. 25). The inadequacy in traditional theories of EU integration, policymaking, and implementation to explain this outcome is obvious. The authors therefore opted to include negotiation theory on issue linkage to develop an integrated framework for analysis. Perhaps the most noteworthy strength of this book is causes and effects of process and outcome of the EU climate and energy policy package comparatively.

According to negotiation theory, EU climate policy would “reflect the position of the least ambitious actor when unanimity is required” (p. 3). This outcome, however, was not reflected in reality. The inconsistency prompted Skjærseth et al. to propose three compelling answers—with the help of an issue-linkage perspective—to explain how this was possible: combining different issues into a package; compensating “losers” by adding issues such as side payments; and creating synergies by which policies for climate objectives could also reduce air pollution and create new green jobs. What’s more, they distinguish between functional and political linkages to reveal how the EU has been able to adopt increasingly ambitious climate policies by linking energy issues and policies. Political linkage is defined by whether climate and energy policies are initiated, recommended, and adopted concurrently by the same set of policymakers.

The researchers apply two complementary approaches to explain why and how such policies developed in the first place: Liberal Intergovernmentalism (LI) and Multi-Level Governance (MLG). From an LI perspective, the initiation and adoption of climate and energy policies would be expected to “reflect the interests, preferences and actions of the member states and their intergovernmental bargaining” (p. 3). MLG is the dispersion of authority across multiple levels of political governance. Over the last several decades, authority has moved away from traditional national governments in Europe not just to the supranational level within the EU, but also to subnational levels (e.g., regional assemblies and local authorities). The latter approach may “explain the initiation and adoption of EU climate and energy policies as a result of complex bargaining at multiple governance levels that include EU institutions, non-state actors and member state governments” (p. 4). The authors explore two main approaches to explain variation in implementation. The first centers on degree of “fit” between EU requirements and the national status quo; the second focuses on the relationship between EU and domestic politics. The reform phase of policies can also be analyzed from the abovementioned explanatory perspectives.

The authors selected four countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland) to ensure the richness and deepness of empirical analysis. These countries are confronted with a range of different challenges and opportunities with respect to decarbonizing their economies because of their significant variation in energy mix and import dependency. The analysis focuses on the directive reforming the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS), the Effort-Sharing Decision (ESD), the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), and the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Directive. The authors examine two climate policies for the transport sector—the car emissions regulation and the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD)—for a subset of countries.

The authors extracted empirically testable propositions from various theoretical perspectives and examined them with a combination of methodological techniques (including pattern-matching, process tracing and explanation-building). They collected qualitative data from multiple sources, including energy statistics, official papers, secondary literature, and semistructured interviews.

Linking EU Climate and Energy Policies should be read by all who are interested in climate and energy policy and governance. There are some limitations to the study, as its authors acknowledge: it is widely accepted that transforming energy systems will always be “a matter of incremental change” (p. 7); therefore, assessing future implementation is difficult.

Shortcomings aside, this volume contributes in several ways to the field of international and comparative climate politics. It illustrates the arduousness of pursuing climate and environmental objectives continuously, as is evident from how the implementation experiences of the EU package have affected national positions on new long-term policies. The authors simultaneously embed climate and energy policy in an intricate European political context, noting that “variation in domestic politics has proved more potent in explaining variation in implementation than ‘fit’ and adaptation pressure” (p. 235). They remind us that the current status of new 2030 EU targets and policies “indicates that they are not likely to trigger any fundamental transformation of the energy system by 2030” (p. 236).

This ambitious project, in effect, covers a nuanced set of public policy implications. In initiation and negotiation, “the package managed to combine policies that underscored the opportunities for synergies rather than trade-offs: all the objectives could be realized” (p. 247). Moreover, the authors of this book found it useful to differentiate between conditions that promote package solutions and package trouble. In terms of policy implementation and reform, an intriguing observation is “how difference in access to domestic decision making for renewable energy interests between Poland and Germany have contributed to produce different ambitions and support systems for renewables in electricity production” (p. 248). Last but not least, the policy cycle approach used throughout the book demonstrates how issue-linkages and policy packages may have different effects on different phases that may help or hamper subsequent policy progress.