Strengthening bottom-up and top-down climate governance

Jo Dirix, Wouter Peeters, Johan Eyckmans, Peter Tom Jones, Sigrid Sterckx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Although the UN and EU focus their climate policies on the prevention of a 2 8C global mean temperature rise, it has been estimated that a rise of at least 4 8C is more likely. Given the political climate of inaction, there is a need to instigate a bottom-up approach so as to build domestic support for future climate treaties, empower citizens, and motivate leaders to take action. A review is provided of the predominant top-down cap-and-trade policies in place – the Kyoto Protocol and EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) – with a focus on the grandfathering of emissions entitlements and the possibility of offsetting emissions. These policies are evaluated according to two criteria of justice and it is concluded that they fail to satisfy them. Some suggestions as to how the EU ETS can be improved so as to enable robust climate action are also offered.

Policy relevance
The current supranational climate policy has not been successful and global leaders have postponed the adoption of a meaningful successor to the Kyoto Protocol. In view of this inaction, bottom-up approaches with regard to climate policy should be further developed. It is argued that two of the main top-down policies, grandfathering and offsetting, impede the avowed goals of EU climate policy and pose significant ethical dilemmas with regard to participatory and intergenerational justice. In order to provide a more robust EU climate policy, the EU should inter alia provide a long-term perspective for investors, reduce the volatility of the carbon price, and prepare for the possibility of carbon leakage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-383
Number of pages21
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number3
Early online date1 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • bottom-up initiatives
  • climate policy
  • ethics
  • EU ETS
  • grandfathering
  • offsetting
  • top-down approaches


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