Policy Diffusion in the European Union

In the context of international climate governance, the European Union is a world climate leader. In fact, the EU generates 3 times more renewable energy per person than anywhere else in the world.  How do they achieve such ambitious goals?

POLICY DIFFUSION is one of the least costly and most effective ways to encourage the adoption of renewable energy in the European Union change. Diffusion simply refers to when policies are communicated and shared between countries. It is a great way to speed up the achievement of goals as critical as emissions reductions to combat the threat of climate change!

In this case, I want to talk about cross-national (meaning from one EU member state to another) renewable energy policy diffusion.

It is common for green leaders, like Germany and France to share their policies with less progressive states like Greece or Poland. But, it isn’t always that easy because nations have individual interests that can hinder their cooperation. If you really want more detail on this concept, check out the white paper I wrote, which includes recommendations to accelerate renewable energy policy diffusion.

The infographic below illustrates the mechanisms by which the European Union’s 28 member states diffuse policies to accelerate the transition to renewable energy.



The hot air balloons demonstrate how feed-in-tariff mechanisms, green certificates, and other renewable energy support instruments have traveled between countries.

In energy policy-making, member states are required to respond to centralized directives, like the 2030 Energy Strategy (pictured in the middle of the earth), which sets the overall renewable energy generation goal to 27% and also requires states to submit national plans to contribute to the target.  Though the EU sets the target, member states have autonomy to decide their own strategy for contributing, known as effort-sharing. The top-down nature of climate & energy policy-making, through the 2030 strategy and the 2020 Climate & Energy Package, facilitates unique opportunities for collaborations between member states.

The 2030 Energy Strategy is not to be confused with Agenda 2030, which refers to the United Nation Development Program’s plan to achieve the 17 sustainable development goals. On an international scale, there is a shared effort to align climate targets from the Paris Agreement with the intention to end poverty, fight inequality, and tackle climate change.

It makes a lot of sense for these groups to try to work together to try to deliver on these joint goals. For example, Germany and France successfully rejected the attempt of the EU to establish green certificate mechanism. Germany and France did not want to start over when they had already done the work of establishing feed-in tariffs, so they successfully pushed for the diffusion of feed-in-tariffs as the preferred renewable energy support mechanism. Just like if your professor told you to reorganize a bookshelf alphabetically when you had already spent 3 hours doing it by color, you wouldn’t want to start over. 

Member states can form partnerships and learn from each other’s mistakes to rise even higher than they could independently. As Virginie Dumoulin, a French delegate shared with me at the COP, the EU is a “wonderful experiment” in governance that enables impressive climate leadership!

Hear from Virginie Doumoulin, Head of European Partnerships for the French Ministry of the Environment, in the podcast below, where she sheds light on the commitments to renewable energy made by member states. 


Talking with Virginie Dumoulin, a French party delegate, was such a special privilege. She is an extremely accomplished woman. It is amazing to see the commitment and expertise of European delegates.

One thought on “Policy Diffusion in the European Union

  1. Pingback: Towards a 100% Renewable Future for Europe – Cassidy for Climate

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