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Europe in a climate of risk: three paradigms at play

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This paper explores the suitability of risk regulation, and particularly the EU approach to risk regulation, as a conceptual and organisational framework for the EU’s battle against climate change. It argues that such exploration, in the first place, requires a thorough understanding of the discourses, agenda, and strategies that constitute, respectively, the risk regulation paradigm, the EU risk regulation paradigm, and the climate risk paradigm. The analysis of the three paradigms reveals not only points of overlap, but also substantial divergences between the three paradigms, with the most pronounced tensions occurring between the EU risk regulation and climate risk paradigms. The paper therefore reinforces concerns over a possible colonisation of climate change policy by EU risk regulation and argues that climate change regulation has a better chance of effectiveness if it develops alongside but separately from EU risk regulation (‘co-existence’). The latter scenario also offers prospects for comparison and exchange between regulatory regimes (‘cross-regime learning’), which could help both regimes to face, and possibly overcome, their specific weaknesses.

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