Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

The inconvenient truth of failed climate policies

Sometimes policymakers have backed the wrong technologies, lacked ambition or simply not engaged with potential emissions reductions. Sonja van Renssen explores climate policies that have not delivered and why.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Landscape of Change.
Fig. 2: Top 20 GHG emitters since 1990.

Neil Richards


  1. Cowart, R., Bayer, E., Keay-Bright, S. & Lees, E. Carbon Caps and Efficiency Resources: Launching a “Virtuous Circle” for Europe (RAP, 2015);

  2. Jones, D., Buck, M. & Sakhel, A. Energy Transition in the Power Sector in Europe: State of Affairs in 2017 (Sandbag & Agora Energiewende, 2018);

  3. Wyns, T. & Axelson, M. Decarbonising Europe’s Energy Intensive Industries: The Final Frontier (Institute for European Studies, Vrije Univ, Brussel, 2016);

  4. Valin, H. et al. The Land Use Change Impact of Biofuels Consumed in the EU: Quantification of Area and Greenhouse Gas Impacts (Ecofys, IIASA, E4tech, 2015);

  5. Bundesnetzagentur Announces Successful Bids in First Auction for Offshore Wind Farms (Bundesnetzagentur, 2017);

  6. Nuon Wins Permit for Dutch Offshore Wind Farm Without Subsidy (Netherlands Enterprise Agency, 2017);

  7. Non Paper on Complementary Economic Modelling Undertaken by DG ENER Regarding Different Energy Policy Scenarios Including Updated Renewable Energy Technology Costs in the Context of Council and Parliament Discussions of the Recast of the Renewable Energy Directive and the Revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive (European Commission, 2018).

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sonja van Renssen.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

van Renssen, S. The inconvenient truth of failed climate policies. Nature Clim Change 8, 355–358 (2018).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing