Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Framing Climate Policy Ambition in the European Parliament

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Abstract:  The European Union’s climate policy is considered quite ambitious. This has led to a growing interest among political scientists investigating the European Parliament’s ability to negotiate such ambitious climate legislation. These studies generally focus on the voting behaviour of members of the European Parliament, which allows us to know more about their positions when it comes to accepting or rejecting legislative acts. However, we know surprisingly little about how they debate and justify their positions in Parliament. In these debates, members of the European Parliament not only identify the problem (i.e., climate change and its adverse effects) but also discuss potential solutions (i.e., their willingness or ambition to fight and adapt to climate change). In addition, plenary debates are ideal for making representative claims based on citizens’ interests on climate action. Therefore, this article aims to understand how climate policy ambitions are debated in the European Parliament and whose interests are represented. We propose a new manual coding scheme for climate policy ambitions in parliamentary debate and employ it in climate policy debates in the ninth European Parliament (2019–present). In doing so, this article makes a methodological contribution to operationalising climate policy ambition from a parliamentary representation and legitimation perspective. We find debating patterns that connect quite detailed ambitions with clear representative claims and justifications. There is more agreement on what to do than how to get there, with divides emerging based on party, ideological, and member-state characteristics.

Keywords:  climate policy ambition; content analysis; European Parliament; fragmentation; parliamentary debates; policy change


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© Lucy Kinski, Ariadna Ripoll Servent. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.