Our Common Future Under Climate Change

International Scientific Conference 7-10 JULY 2015 Paris, France

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Thursday 9 July - 15:00-16:30 UPMC Jussieu - Amphi Durand

4411 - Can the Green Economy save the climate?

Parallel Session

Lead Convener(s): S. Aykut (LISIS, Marne-la-Vallée, France)

Convener(s): S. Benabou (Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD), Paris, France)


Green Economy as a Technocratic Concept: Genealogy and Agenda

J. Foyer (CNRS, Paris, France)

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Green Economy as a Technocratic Concept: Genealogy and Agenda

J. Foyer (1)
(1) CNRS, ISCC, Paris, France

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In 1972 in Stockholm, the environment was considered as a set of constraints, imposing various biophysical limitations on economic activity. At Rio in 1992, the advent of sustainable development introduced changes in this representation: economic development or growth was considered as possibly compatible with environmental protection. In 2012 at Rio, the Green Economy was supposed to represent a further step in the environment-market reconciliation, since through this notion, the environment was no longer considered as a reality to be taken into account, and even less as a constraint, but rather as an opportunity. Thus, within 40 years, the discourse has moved from the assertion of a fundamental contradiction and the search for a balance between the environment and the economy, to that of potential synergy.


This presentation aims both at tracing a genealogy of the concept of Green Economy and a precise analysis of the moment of its international agenda setting at Rio +20. Our core hypothesis is that the concept of green economy, while conveying a very liberal and economistic worldview, is primarily a technocratic concept that did not stem from the private sector, but that emerged at the interface between academia and international institutions. We also want to analyze the role of the Rio+20 Summit in agenda setting and testing ground for the concept, as a moment of controversy and violent geopolitical confrontation over its definition and vehement criticism on the scope it should be granted.



CARBON EMISSIONS AND RESOURCE PRODUCTIVITY: Why reviving growth requires a rapid de-carbonization of the global energy system

M. Molitor (SciencesPo, Paris, France)

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CARBON EMISSIONS AND RESOURCE PRODUCTIVITY: Why reviving growth requires a rapid de-carbonization of the global energy system

M. Molitor (1)
(1) SciencesPo, Paris School of International Affairs, Paris, France

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Most governments believe that any attempts to reduce their emissions will require giving up on some future economic growth and this has served as the principal barrier to getting global collective action on reducing the growing risks associated with climate change.  This is true despite the fact that numerous economic studies have shown that the future reductions in growth required to keep global surface temperature increases to less than 2 degrees C will be small relative to the overall increases in growth over time. What no one has questioned is whether it is possible to meet the economic growth requirements of a human population on its way to 9.5 billion people in 2050 by using fossil fuels as the primary basis of delivering both stationary and transport energy. 

The global economy requires exponential growth to function properly and this, in turn, requires an exponential improvement in overall resource productivity.  Resource productivity refers to the efficiency with which all forms of capital (human intellectual, hard assets, and money), energy and natural resources are deployed.  There is a growing gap between the increasing levels of resource efficiency now required and the levels which we have been able to achieve.  Locating, recovering, transporting, refining, and combusting fossil fuels requires increasing amounts of capital, energy and natural resources.  Not only has the resource productivity of fossil fuels been declining for decades but, as energy touches every segment of the global economy, fossil fuels have had a negative impact on global resource productivity as well.

The OECD estimates that global GDP must increase from approximately US$70 trillion today to US$305 trillion by 2050 in order to meet the growing aspirations of an expanding human population.  This is an unprecedented level of growth requiring extraordinary improvements in resource productivity.  Many large-scale economic activities in operation today are deploying capital, energy and natural resources at levels of resource productivity that will make it nearly impossible to achieve the higher levels of growth now required.  The most compelling evidence of this is the waste produced by these activities as waste is the best indicator of resource inefficiency.   At 36 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and growing, the waste produced through the combustion of fossil fuels is the most robust evidence of the least resource productive activity on the planet. 

Getting to US$305 trillion is not possible if we continue to rely on fossil fuels as our primary source of delivering useful energy.  Fortunately, there are existing and emerging energy technologies, new business models and new models for producing and distributing energy which are capable of delivering the large improvements in resource productivity now required.  Furthermore, the level of capital investment required is no more than the amount that would have been deployed to continue using fossil fuels.   The old narrative…

“Reducing carbon emissions requires deciding to be a little bit poorer in the future”

is not only out of date but completely inaccurate.  The new narrative is…

“Reducing carbon emissions is the only pathway to restoring growth at scale and on time”


Michael is currently a Visiting Professor in the International Energy Program at SciencesPo in Paris and an adjunct professor at the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.  He also serves as a senior advisor to the Climate Bonds Initiative—working to create a global standard by which climate bonds are certified. He was formerly the Principal Advisor on Sustainable Development at the OECD based in Paris. Michael spent 12 years in the private sector working as an advisor to BP on the development of the company’s climate change strategy, as the Global Leader of Climate Change Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and as the Senior Advisor on Climate Change at McKinsey.  BA (Michigan); MSc (London School of Economics); PhD (Cambridge); Post doctoral fellowship (Harvard). Citizen of Australia, US and France. 


Green economy and its alternatives

K. Mcafee (San Francisco State University, San Francisco, United States of America)

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Green economy and its alternatives

K. Mcafee (1)
(1) San Francisco State University, San Francisco, United States of America

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Global environmental policy is increasingly framed by discourses of ‘green economy’. Green economy is meant to foster economic growth while decoupling that growth from environmental decline. Its advocates hope that monetary valuation of environmental assets and deficits, economic rationality, and market mechanisms can mute the most ecologically damaging effects of unfettered, globalized capitalism. Some contend that this approach can surmount the North-South conflicts over climate-change liabilities and obligations that have bedeviled environmental negotiations.

To this end, green economy has been advanced as a successor to sustainable development. Its proponents endorse markets in nature as both a conservation strategy and a means to foster economic development in the context of resource scarcities and shrinking ecological space. In this view, international carbon trading would compensate developing countries for the costs of averting GHG emissions and ensuring conservation, while payments for ecosystem services might ease growing conflicts over land and resource rights. Advocates hope that green economy, informed by scientific expertise, can thus position environmental governance above the political fray.

Nevertheless, international climate negotiations remain highly politicized. Some G77 governments reject green economy as likely to undermine their sovereignty and reinforce longstanding patterns of global inequality. Some denounce carbon markets as ‘environmental neocolonialism’ yet remain dependent on extractivism and fossil-fuel-based growth. In contrast, emerging critiques ‘from below’ challenge the foundational assumptions of mainstream green economy, extractivism, and the growth imperative.

New peasant and indigenous social movements and their intellectual allies reject the construction of ecological limits as absolute scarcity, focusing less on the finitude of resources and carbon sinks than on the anti-entropic, life-giving relationship among human labor, water, soil, sun, and the activities of other species. They question the implicit equations of development with growth, well-being with consumption, and conservation with market rationality. Instead of growth they speak of buen vivir, sumak kawsay, lek’il kuxlejal, ubuntu, radical ecological democracy, etc. These concepts connote living well and living cooperatively both socially and ecologically.

These visionaries do not exclude trade, much less the reduction of material deprivation, but they reject narrow productivism that is blind to ecological consequences and distributive outcomes. Instead, they pursue endogenous strategies aimed at reduced dependence on external markets and capital, repeasantization, and equitable urban-rural relationships. In place of standardized scientific categories and universally commensurable values, they are informed by relational ontologies: understandings of human-nature linkages that are diverse, dynamic and specific to particular territories, times, and ecosocial systems.

Can such visions and strategies overcome the apparent conflict between the need for greater material well-being and the impoverishing, diversity-destroying results of globalized growth along current trajectories? Given the scope of the climate-change challenge in an unequal world, counter-hegemonic discourses to green economy under the broad headings of buen vivir, mainly in the global South, and degrowth, mainly in the global North, merit our attention.


Sustainable energy and development in a dichotomous economy: South Africa

A. Hughes (University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa), T. Caetano (University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa), H. Trollip (University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa), B. Merven (University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa)

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Sustainable energy and development in a dichotomous economy: South Africa

A. Hughes (1) ; T. Caetano (1) ; H. Trollip (1) ; B. Merven (1)
(1) University of Cape Town, Energy research centre, Cape Town, South Africa

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Currently South Africa is ranked amongst the top 20 emitters in terms of global GHG emissions. Energy consumption, which is heavily coal dependent, is expected to grow significantly in the future as the economy grows, and therefore, unless commitments to decrease GHG emissions are prioritised, GHG emissions will increase dramatically in the medium to long term. Energy modeling in the Long Term Mitigation Scenarios showed, for example, a four fold increase in GHG emissions by 2050 under a scenario of Growth Without Constraints (ERC, 2007).

In terms of Economic development and GDP, SA is considered to be an upper middle income country, with a per capita GNI in purchasing power parity terms of 12240$US (World Bank, 2015). However, society in South Africa remains very unequal. The GINI coefficient is 0.69 (StatsSA 2014) and the MDG poverty line of $1.25 (2005ppp) shows that 7.4 percent of South Africans are currently living in extreme poverty, using a poverty line at $2.5 (2005 ppp) per day, this number increases to 29.2% (StatsSA 2013). Lower income households also experience a large degree of energy poverty, despite the high levels of electrification. For example the Department of Energy found that over a third of South African households are energy poor (DOE 2013). Poverty is largely due to high levels of unemployment in the formal sector and low levels of informal sector activity. Using a broad definition of unemployment which includes all those currently without work that would like to work, 34.6% of South Africans are currently unemployed (StatsSA 2015).

South Africa is committed to a development path which is both inclusive (reducing inequality, unemployment and poverty), and “green” (reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the sustainability of both the production and consumption of energy). Impacting low carbon development aspirations is the heavy reliance of industry and electricity production on coal. Questions currently being grappled with are: how can we decouple GDP growth and coal use in the economy?,   encourage more efficient and equitable use of energy and follow a growth path which promotes job creation in sectors that are less energy intensive, thereby lowering emissions.  This needs to be done without negatively impacting aspirations for high GDP growth and increased employment, both of which are economic development priorities which underpin current development policies such as the National Development Plan, and the Growth, Employment and Redistribution Plan.

The question for this paper is therefore: What could a sustainable energy future under a scenario of inclusive growth look like for South Africa?

The paper uses a bottom up energy model of South Africa, SATIM, to explore possible energy pathways and deep decarbonisation, looking specifically at the energy needed for the economy and the likely fuel mix and GHG emissions associated with this until 2050. A CGE model is used to assess how close we are to meeting development objectives, and ultimately whether development and decarbonisation can be complimentary objectives.


Energy Research Centre. (2007).  Long Term Mitigation Scenarios: Technical Summary, Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism, Pretoria, 2007

DOE, 2013. A survey of energy-related behaviour and perceptions in South Africa.

StatsSA, 2013. Millennium Development Goals Country Report 2013.

StatsSA, 2014. Poverty Trends in South Africa.

StatsSA, 2015. Statistical release Quarterly Labour Force Survey Q4 2014,

World Bank. (2015). http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.PP.CD, accessed March 01 2015


Can “Green Growth” Guide us into a Sustainable Future?

M. S. Rhozyel, (Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Berlin, Germany),
J. Zalpyte (Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Leipzig, Germany)

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Can “Green Growth” Guide us into a Sustainable Future?

MS. Rhozyel, (1) ; J. Zalpyte (2)
(1) Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Faculty of forestry and environment, Berlin, Germany; (2) Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Faculty of Forestry and Environment, Leipzig, Germany

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Prevailing political economy is failing to maintain environmental, social, political and economic coherence. A deep changeover into a new economy is needed “where the acknowledged priority  is  to  sustain  human  and  natural  communities”  (GTI,  2011:  1).  Therefore,  it  is  widely accepted that the current linear so-called “take-make-dispose” economy is not sustainable and that solutions need to be found in order to decrease both the input of limited resources as well as the output of human waste in any form. This paper examines in how far the ideas of „green growth“ are capable to cope with this problem since they promise material welfare while reducing the impacts on the environment. Even though the underlying approaches like a „circular economy“, “zero-emissions economy” or „Factor x“ seem to be desirable, there is reasonable scepticism in how far advances in resource  efficiency  can  ensure  a  sustainable  future  while  industrialised  societies  got  used  to constantly raising living standards. We show that there is an intrinsic contradiction within the desire for “green growth” guiding the way towards a sustainable future.


Environmental Justice and Conceptions of the Green Economy

T. Ehresman (University of the South--Sewanee, Sewanee, Tennessee, United States of America), C. Okereke (University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom)

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Environmental Justice and Conceptions of the Green Economy

T. Ehresman (1) ; C. Okereke (2)
(1) University of the South--Sewanee, Department of Politics, Sewanee, Tennessee, United States of America; (2) University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

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Abstract: Green economy has become one of the most fashionable terms in globalenvironmental public policy discussions and forums. Despite this popularity, and its beingselected as one of the organizing themes of the United Nations Rio?20 Conference inBrazil, June 2012, its prospects as an effective mobilization tool for global environmentalsustainability scholarship and practice remain unclear. A major reason for this is that muchlike its precursor concepts such as environmental sustainability and sustainable development,green economy is a woolly concept, which lends itself to many interpretations.Hence, rather than resolve long-standing controversies, green economy merely reinvigoratesexisting debates over the visions, actors and policies best suited to secure a moresustainable future for all. In this review article, we aim to fill an important gap in scholarshipby suggesting various ways in which green economy may be organized and synthesizedas a concept, and especially in terms of its relationship with the idea of social andenvironmental justice. Accordingly, we offer a systemization of possible interpretations ofgreen economy mapped onto a synthesis of existing typologies of environmental justice.This classification provides the context for future analysis of which, and how, variousnotions of green economy link with various conceptions of justice.


Greenovation and Sustainable Manufacturing: A Case Study of the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industry in Nigeria

J. Adelegan (Global Network for Environment and Economic Development Research, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, Federal Republic of), O. J. Professor Adelegan (Lead City University, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, Federal Republic of)

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Greenovation and Sustainable Manufacturing: A Case Study of the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industry in Nigeria

J. Adelegan (1) ; OJ. Professor Adelegan (2)
(1) Global Network for Environment and Economic Development Research, Department of Environment and Sustainable Development, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, Federal Republic of; (2) Lead City University, Economics, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, Federal Republic of

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Addressing a paucity of research about industrial adoption of green innovation in Africa and, more generally, in tropical developing countries, we examined the Nigerian chemical and pharmaceutical industry as a case study. Qualitative interviews with one hundred and forty upper echelon executives representing thirty five Nigerian firms challenge conventional expectations that energy intensive industries in developing markets operate amid highly pollution-intensive conditions, within weak or non-existent formal environmental regulatory frameworks, and with limited institutional capacity. Our findings suggest a strong positive relationship between green innovation and financial performance and positive relationship between green innovation and sustainable manufacturing of African firms.


Impacts of mitigation policies on labor markets and welfare

C. Grottera (COPPE/UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), W. Wills (COPPE/UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil)

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Impacts of mitigation policies on labor markets and welfare

C. Grottera (1) ; W. Wills (2)
(1) COPPE/UFRJ, Energy planning, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; (2) COPPE/UFRJ, Energy Planning, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

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The increasing need to reduce GHG emissions gives rise to new environmental regulations and market instruments, which present the potential to transform economies over the next decades. Production and consumption patterns are about to experience major changes as the world's carbon emissions must decrease in order to meet safe carbon concentration levels in the atmosphere.

The transition to a low carbon economy offers many opportunities to create green and decent jobs in developing countries, especially in sectors related to renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, forestry and waste management. Meanwhile, sectors like oil and gas, mining and energy-intensive industry may experience significant losses.

Since sectors differ in labor skill requirements and remuneration levels, shifting to this new profile will have major implications for workers among various sectors. To the extent that this affects workers´ income, changes in inequality and poverty levels are expected. In that sense, seeking a fair transition and the preservation of decent jobs is arguably necessary.

This work uses a hybrid Computable General Equilibrium model (IMACLIM-BR) to assess the impacts of mitigation options in various sectors, ranging from AFOLU to waste management, energy and industry sectors. The model is divided in 6 energy sectors, 7 industrial sectors, apart from the agriculture and livestock, transport and services sectors, and represents the Brazilian economy for a 25-year period, from 2005 to 2030.

The household sector is divided in 3 income classes, according to the their total income measured in base-year minimum wages (2005). Household consumption and income levels were calibrated using the 2003 National Household Budget Survey (POF), undertaken by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). The first income class represents the 16% poorer households, the second the 60% intermediary ones, and the third class represents the 24% richest households.

The long-term scenarios depicted in the study were built through a participative process that engaged more than 70 stakeholders from different areas, including government, private sector, the scientific community and civil society agents. In order to simulate quite ambitious mitigation scenarios, a set of mitigation options was identified, contemplating possibilities in the AFOLU, industrial, transport, residential and services, energy and waste sectors. The inputs provided by the stakeholders and sectorial experts included different mitigation options, investment requirements, GHG abatement potential and marginal abatement costs, among other aspects.

After defining a set of mitigation options, stakeholders were interested in checking what would be the influence of the implementation policy over macroeconomic and social indicators. To assess those effects, two implementation policies were tested - a normative scenario (command and control) and a normative scenario plus a carbon tax (100 US$/tCO2e).

Since several of those options present low and even negative abatement costs, our results show that their implementation do not jeopardize total output and jobs, even though there are winning and losing sectors. For example, jobs in oil, coal and carbon intensive sectors decrease whilst jobs in the biomass and services sectors increase. The former usually employs high-skilled labor, while workers in the latter are usually less skilled and hence poorer. Therefore, the results indicate a greater evolution in poor workers´ income, relative to high-skilled ones, leading to a better income distribution in the long run.


Low Carbon Economy versus Ecological Civilisation: Polarization and Consensus of China's environmentalism

C. Goron (Department of Politics and International Studies, Coventry, UK, United Kingdom)

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Low Carbon Economy versus Ecological Civilisation: Polarization and Consensus of China's environmentalism

C. Goron (1)
(1) Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, United Kingdom

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China’s Climate Strategy proclaims the ultimate objective to transform its economic model towards “green and low carbon development” (lvse ditan fazhan) (China Climate Strategy 2014-2020). This strategy is often equated with the concept of “green growth”, which the Chinese government has supported in the UN, mirroring its success in becoming the world’s largest manufacturer of green technologies (REN report 2013) and the world’s largest “green market” (IGEA, 2014)[1]. Indeed, both concepts emphasise the bottom line requirement that environmental protection may never mean a “growth ban” and on the contrary can be a motor of economic growth (Pan, J. et al, 2010; Jacobs, M. 2013). However, this economic interpretation of sustainability, and the marketization policies it entails, have been challenged, not only internationally, but also within China. In my paper, I brings evidence of this domestic debate and assess the relative importance, within it, of “green growth” as enabler and inhibiter of actions against climate change. Based on an extensive review of Chinese media, NGOs and academic publications, as well as policy documents, I discuss how issues of principle have informed two “low carbon policies”: the introduction of carbon markets and the promotion of “low carbon cities” in the 12th Five-Year-Plan (2011-2016). I argue that the rhetoric of “low carbon development” has served mainly to cut through a polarized debate regarding the responsibility for the provision environmental public goods in China. Amongst them, nationalists still view “Low Carbon” as a western plot to contain China’s rise (Gou, 2010)[2] and blame foreign capitalists for destroying China’s resources and public health for the benefit of western consumers (Wen, Dale, 2015). On the contrary, socialist interpretations of the concept of “ecological civilization” (Shengtai wenming), which was included in the Constitution of the Communist Party in November 2012, target the government as principal agent of change, and reject the focus on economic growth as corrupted and “western” (Yu, Keping, 2003; Pan, Yue, 2007,)[4]. But as implementing successful climate actions in China remains contingent on strong government support, success relies on creative accommodation of the official rhetoric of balancing economic and environmental priorities.


[1] International Green Economy Association guoji lvse jingji xiehui, in their invitation to the first Global Green Technology Conference – China in Beijing on 29-30 January 2015. See http://www.igea-un.org/news/bencandy.php?fid=213&id=3899

[2] Gou’s book Low Carbon Plot – China’s vital war with the UE and Europe, published in 2010, had a frank success in China and was glossed upon for months on Chinese social media. Gou, Hongyang, (2010), Ditan yinmou; zhongguo yu oumei de shengsi zhilu, Low Carbon Plot – China’s vital war with the UE and EuropeShanxi Edition Publishing (In Chinese)

[3] "The Party must promote all-around economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological progress in accordance with the overall plan for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics."

[4] Pan Yue, as deputy director of China’s State Environmental Protection Administration, published in 2007 a high-profile essay on” Socialist Ecological Civilization”. Pan Yue, Shengtai Wenming Jian Cujing Zhongguo Tese Shehui Zhuyi Jianshe. (On Socialist Ecological Civilisation). China Economic Times on September 26, 2006 (In Chinese)


Co-performance: the making of ecological modernization theory and EU climate politics

S. Aykut (LISIS, Marne-la-Vallée, France), B. Gabrielle (Irstea, Cestas , France)

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Co-performance: the making of ecological modernization theory and EU climate politics

S. Aykut (1) ; B. Gabrielle (2)
(1) LISIS, Université paris-est, Marne-la-Vallée, France; (2) Irstea, Cestas , France

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Scholars in comparative political science generally acknowledge that the European Union took the lead in issues of environmental protection and in global climate politics in the late 1990s. They attribute the legislative and diplomatic activism of the European Union in environmental issues to the prevalence of ecological modernization beliefs within the European Commission and some Member States heralded as leaders in this domain (Weale 1992; Pridham and Cini 1994; Cini 1995; Hajer 1995; Weale, Pridham et al. 2000). Taking the EU as an example, this contribution aims at questioning the role of norms and beliefs in the development of ambitious climate policy by (supra-)state actors.

We argue that ecological modernization discourse and EU environmental politics co-evolved and co-produced a narrative of environmental performance. This occured through a twofold process: (1) ecological modernization is not only a discourse but a narrative with performative consequences; (2) the evolution of EU climate policy shaped the development of ecological modernization theory. We first explore the intellectual and political context within which the discourse on ecological modernization became an influential narrative in the EU environmental politics. We situate this context in the post-cold war history of transatlantic relations. We then relate discursive affinities between narrative and contingent features in the EU environmental politics. This enables us to disclose how EU environmental politics and the narrative on ecological modernization reinforced and shaped each other. Finally, we explore recent developments in both EU climate policy and ecological modernization theory and ask how they relate to the emergence of the concept of "Green Economy".