The Member States of the European Union needs to step up their efforts to meet the bloc’s climate objectives and implement the Paris Climate Agreement, according to report by the Commission published on 18 June.
The Commission’s assessment of Member States’ draft plans to implement the EU’s Energy Union objectives, and in particular the agreed EU 2030 energy and climate targets, finds that the national plans already represent significant efforts but points to several areas where there is room for improvement, notably as concerns targeted and individualised policies to ensure the delivery of the 2030 targets and to stay on the path towards climate neutrality in the longer term.
The EU is the first major economy to put in place a legally binding framework to deliver on its pledges under the Paris Agreement and this is the first time that the Member States have prepared draft integrated national energy and climate plans (NECPs). Yet, with plans currently falling short both in terms of renewables and energy efficiency contributions, reaching the EU’s overall climate and energy goals will require a collective step up of ambition.
Energy Union cannot be built in Brussels, Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said on 18 June. “We need our Member States to be co-pilots. And the National Energy and Climate Plans are the best way to facilitate this broad, on-the-ground ownership of the ongoing clean energy transition,” he added.
He reminded that this is the first time that all Member States have submitted their draft integrated National Energy and Climate Plans – looking across policies, sectors and even across borders – so that the European Commission can assess them. “That is not a minor thing. The plans – once final – will define the energy and economic landscape of each Member State and Europe as a whole in the next decade, and even beyond,” Šefčovič said, adding that in practice, the national plans must show Member States´ contribution to the Energy Union objectives, notably their pathway to the European 2030 energy and climate targets, that must add up to at least 32% for renewable energy and at least 32.5% for energy efficiency.
“In other words, this is the way of turning the Paris Agreement into tangible actions. At the same time, the national plans are a unique political signal to businesses, investors and the financial sector. The plans can provide clarity, predictability and transparency with regard to the national legislation for the next decade and beyond. This, in return, can boost future private investments,” Šefčovič said.
Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete reminded that last November the Commission proposed that the EU should become climate neutral by 2050. “We have shown and led the way forward. It is good to see that a growing number of Member States are following our lead and working towards that goal. Having evaluated Member States draft national plans, I am positive about the significant efforts that have been made,” Cañete said.
“However, in the final plans, even more, ambition is needed to set the EU on the right track in fighting climate change and modernising our economy. I invite the Council to open a debate around the main priorities identified by the Commission and help ensure that the final plans contain an adequate level of ambition,” he added.
In its analysis of the draft national plans, the Commission looked at their aggregated contribution to meeting the EU’s Energy Union objectives and 2030 targets. As they stand, the draft NECPs fall short both in terms of renewables and energy efficiency contributions. For renewables, the gap could be as big as 1.6 percentage points, the Commission. For energy efficiency, the gap can be as big as 6.2 percentage points if considering primary energy consumption or 6 percentage points if considering final energy consumption.
Insufficient renewables ambition
According to the Commission, 15 countries are not planning to contribute their fair share on renewables: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and the UK.
The Commission also wants the Member States to be granular on the measures that will deliver renewables investments. In particular measures on repowering of wind farms reaching the end of their operational life, streamlining permitting for renewables, removing barriers to corporate renewable Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and boosting the electrification of heating, transport and industrial processes in their final Plans.
“The message from the European Commission is clear: failing to plan is planning to fail,” WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said, commenting on the Commission’s assessment. “The draft Plans don’t get Europe to 32% renewables by 2030. And they’re badly lacking when it comes to specific policy measures. The Commission’s recommendations highlight the areas where countries need to step up their game e.g. permitting, electrification, corporate PPAs, and the repowering of existing wind farms. Member States now know what they’ve to do – ramp up the ambition and fill in all the policy gaps. The Commission needs to stay on their backs and make sure they get it right,” Dickson added.
The Commission noted that the good news is that the Member States now have 6 months to raise their national level of ambition. The Commission’s recommendations and detailed assessments aim to help the Member States finalise their plans by the end of 2019, and to implement them effectively in the years to come. The national plans should provide clarity and predictability for businesses and the financial sector to stimulate necessary private investments, the Commission said, adding that plans will also facilitate Member States’ programming of funding from the next multi-annual financial framework 2021-2027.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace called on the EU on 18 June to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 65% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, in line with scientific advice to prevent a climate catastrophe.
“It’s not surprising that many countries are lagging behind when it comes to climate action,” Greenpeace Poland energy policy adviser Anna Ogniewska said. “Most governments are just waking up to the climate emergency, as public concern grows and scientists warn that the window for action is closing fast. The EU needs to raise the bar if it’s serious about driving global efforts to stop climate breakdown. This means ramping up the 2030 emissions target and backing a 2040 net-zero emissions target. Every delay in climate action will cost lives, wreck the natural world and rob us of our future,” she added.
Commenting on the Commission’s assessment, Bankwatch, said Central and Eastern European countries must create solid plans through meaningful public participation and by exploring every possibility to fund a more just energy transition. “A surge in ambition is in their interest and absolutely necessary if the EU wants to achieve the 2050 net-zero objective that is awaiting approval at Thursday’s European Council,” said Raphael Hanoteaux, EU policy coordinator with Bankwatch.