In the emerging debate on ‘harder soft governance,’ the relationship between hard and soft elements has not been fully explored. This paper addresses this gap by looking at the changing nature of policy monitoring, a quintessentially soft governance mechanism. It focuses on climate change, a dynamic site of policy expansion and experimentation in which the EU has historically been an international frontrunner. This paper finds that a range of ‘harder’ elements have been added to the EU’s climate policy monitoring over time, including more explicit legal provisions, greater external publicity, and more concrete links to other policy processes. These changes have emerged from politically sensitive negotiations between many actors, principally the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Environment Agency (who together have generally favoured greater hardening), and Member States (some of whom preferred softer governance) in the context of changing international opportunities and constraints. Moving forward, this paper highlights the need for more research on the efficacy of policy monitoring, especially with respect to the EU’s significantly more ambitious long-term decarbonisation targets.

Jonas J. Schoenefeld & Andrew J. Jordan (2020) Towards harder soft governance? Monitoring climate policy in the EU, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 22:6, 774-786, DOI: 10.1080/1523908X.2020.1792861