The EU emissions trading scheme has been characterized as one of the most farreaching and radical environmental policies for many years, and “the new grand policy experiment.” Given the EU's earlier resistance to this market-based instrument with no international track record and with US origins, the EU decision-making process, which took less than two years, can be characterized as a puzzlingly ultra-quick political “pregnancy.” In order to understand this, it is necessary to take three explanatory perspectives—and the interaction between them—into account. First, the emissions trading issue was more mature within the EU system than immediately apparent, given that emissions projections were worrying and no effective common climate policies had been adopted. Second, the Commission acted as a strong and clever policy entrepreneur, dealing with other basically positive EU bodies. Third, when the US pulled out of the Kyoto process in March 2001, it provided a window of opportunity for the EU to take the reins of global policy leadership.

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Author notes

This article has benefited from very helpful comments from Atle C. Christiansen, Dag H. Claes, Per O. Eikeland, Henrik Hasselknippe, Kristin Rosendal, Jon B. Skjærseth, Olav S. Stokke, and three anonymous reviewers. Many thanks to Ivar Liseter for formatting assistance and Chris Saunders for language polishing. This article is part of a two-year project at The Fridtjof Nansen Institute on “The EU Emissions Trading Scheme: Key conditions and prospects for effectiveness,” financed by the Norwegian Research Council under the “SAMSTEMT” program. See http://www.fni.no/.