Progetti di ricerca

Climate change policies and governance. The experience of EU voluntary instruments

Ambito disciplinare Macroarea 3

Area scientifica Area 16 - Scienze politiche e sociali

Tipologia finanziamento PROGETTI DI RICERCA DI ATENEO (Finanziamenti di Ateneo)

Tipo di progetto Nazionale

Stato progetto Concluso (archiviato)

Responsabilità scientifica Coordinatore

Data avvio: 10 November 2016

Data termine: 31 December 2018

Importo: 32.006,00 Euro


This research analyses the implementation of the EU’s climate change policies, focusing in particular on two relatively new instruments - the Covenant of Mayors and the Eco-Innovation Program -¬, which were launched in 2008 in order to enhance the local efforts in the achievement of the climate package objectives. The creation of these instruments has been part of the EU’s attempts to cope with increasing complexity of environmental challenges by shifting from environmental protection measures to a wider political agenda on sustainable development and, later on, to climate change policy mainstreaming.
It is worth emphasizing that in contrast to traditional regulatory tools, which have been implemented within different sectors in the past, the operational framework of the new instruments is characterized by a cross-sectoral mix of interventions (concerning in particular energy and environment) and by a network governance approach. Remarkably, both instruments are underpinned by self-regulation and learning logics, aiming at fostering a low-carbon and climate resilient society through encouraging pro-active bottom-up actions, increasing coordination between public authorities at different territorial levels and establishing public-private partnerships. In other words, the design of these instruments responds to the criteria of ‘governing through enabling’ (Bulkeley and Kern 2009) rather than those of steering and compliance.
Building on the existing scholarship and considering recent developments in the EU’s climate policy agenda, the proposed Research Program aims at contributing to the current academic debate on EU policies in two important ways. In conceptual and methodological terms, differently from the dominant trend in previous studies, which have widely adopted a top-down institutional approach, this research develops a bottom-up analytical perspective testing a number of policy variables whose explanatory value appears to be highly relevant for understanding factors influencing the process of implementation in the context of complex and interdependent governance settings. Empirically, this Program investigates and systematically compares the implementation of voluntary instruments, which are yet to be subject to in-depth scholarly analysis.
The sample of countries selected for examination, including Italy, Germany, Poland and the UK, grounds on a most dissimilar research design, as the main goal is to identify common trends in the implementation of the two programmes, which are expected to take place regardless of significant differences between the context conditions.


The Program investigates the EU’s voluntary instruments in the field of the EU’s climate change policies and aims to contribute to a better understanding of factors leading to success and failures in policy implementation. Drawing on a thorough analysis of the state of the art, the Program has the following three interrelated objectives. From a conceptual-methodological point of view, differently from previous studies, the research aims at developing a bottom-up analytical perspective based on policy variables, which would be suitable for an in-depth understanding of the dynamics characterizing the implementation of voluntary instruments in EU policies. Thus, the goal is to overcome the shortcomings of the traditional top-down perspective and at the same time avoid analytical pitfalls which have been revealed in the institutionalist approach to the study of public policies in the EU (Radaelli, Dente and Dossi 2012), which has conceived institutional settings as the main explanatory variable accounting for policy success and failures. By combining quantitative (survey) and qualitative methods (interviews), the Research Program will provide as much as possible comprehensive picture of policy factors which determine the dynamics of policy implementation in the field under examination. Empirically, the project will extend the knowledge on the design of EU policies to a rather scarcely explored area of voluntary instruments. As is well known, scholarly attention has mostly focused on the implementation of EU regulatory and financial instruments, and a few studies on EU and national voluntary schemes have been conducted thus far (Jordan, Wurzel, Zito 2013). Moreover, the research will contribute to explore the very recent approach of climate change policy mainstreaming, as both instruments under examination have been intended to translate it into practice. Overall, ectoral policies, as well as more general process of policy and governance transformations in this field. In operational terms, the project outputs and events aim at disseminating the knowledge about the opportunities and challenges of the EU climate policy instruments to the main stakeholders, in particular at regional and national levels (e.g. local and regional authorities, enterprises, research bodies). The results of the research activities of the Programme will be reported and disseminated through the following deliverables: 1st year: - Database containing the description of local authorities and enterprises participating in the two programmes (WP I) - Research Report on the implementation of the Covenant of Mayors in four countries (WP II) - Research report on the implementation of the Eco-innovation Programme implementation in four countries (WP II) - Research paper discussing preliminary results of the project to be presented at an international conference (WP III) The aforementioned deliverables, except for the last one, are supposed to be entirely completed by an on-contract researcher (assegnista), who will carry out the related activities within WP I and WP II. She/he is also expected to drafting a research paper, in collaboration with the Principle Investigator of the Program. 2nd year: - Scientific paper to be presented at international conferences (WP III) - Two articles to be presented for publication in international referred journals (WP III and WP IV) - The final book illustrating comprehensive results of the program activities (WP III and WP IV) The following events will be organized: - The kick-off meeting involving all members of the Program team - Internal intermediate workshop to be organized at the end of the first year to review and evaluate the preliminary program results - Public workshop involving practitioners (regional and local administrations concerned, enterprises, consultants, etc.), aimed at disseminating the findings of the Program and getting a feedback from various stakeholders. - The final conference



Progetti di ricerca SID 2016