29th Sep 2023

EU spent at least €72bn less on climate than it claimed

  • Half of the EU’s climate spending for 2014-2020 is related to agriculture — yet emissions from farming in the bloc have changed very little during the last decade (Photo: Patrick Schneider)
Listen to article

The European Commission overestimated the amount it spent on climate action for 2014-2020, said EU auditors, raising doubts over the reliability of future reports used to track climate action.

The watchdog report published on Monday (30 May) found that the commission overstated climate spending by at least €72bn — most notably from agricultural funding.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • EU commission's report on climate expenditure for 2014-2020 and likely overestimations (Photo: EU court of auditors)

Overall EU reports on climate spending were "unreliable" and "inconsistent," EU auditors said, pointing out weaknesses in the reporting methodology.

The EU committed to spending at least 20 percent of the EU budget on climate action in 2014-2020 in a bid to tackle climate change through EU expenditure.

But the EU's own auditors say only 13 percent of the budget (about €144bn) had actually contributed to climate action — in contrast to last year's report in which the commission promised €216bn was invested in tackling climate change.

Such huge gaps have raised concerns over the reliability of future reports on the climate expenditure for the period 2021-2027 as the climate-related spending target has been raised to 30 percent.

The current tracking method, EU auditors say, is an a priori exercise which involves "significant approximation" as it is sometimes based on planned spending and committed amounts, instead of final expenditure.

They also argued that the system tracks only "potential positive impacts" without actually evaluating the final contribution toward EU climate goals.

For example, half of the EU's climate spending for 2014-2020 is related to agriculture — yet emissions from farming in the bloc have changed very little during the last decade.

The report concluded that the commission likely overestimated contributions from agricultural spending by almost €60bn.

But it also found that the commission overestimated the climate contribution of infrastructure and cohesion funding such as railways, electricity and biomass.

Climate tracking under the 2021-2027 EU budget remains practically the same as for 2014-2020, raising fears over repeated overestimations during a key period for climate action.

"Climate coefficients lacking justification [and applied for the calculations], inconsistencies in reporting for rail projects, [and] options for fossil fuel use… raises questions on the reliability of future climate reporting," auditors said.

Nevertheless, the EU's recovery plans raise further challenges, they added.

Under the post-pandemic recovery funds, EU countries set a 37 percent target for climate expenditure in line with the "do no significant harm" principle.

The commission was asked to improve the current methodology, issue guidelines to ensure consistency among different areas and report on EU spending with a potentially negative impact on climate.

While the EU executive appears open to improving its reporting system, it deemed it as "solid" and "reliable" because the methodology and its assumptions are "clear, reasonable, and transparently communicated".

Additionally, the commission said it will not track EU spending with potential negative effects on climate change because it will create an additional administrative burden.


EU 'talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk' on climate

When Fridays4Future started our school strikes the EU elections were approaching and you sweet-talked us and told us that you genuinely understood and shared our concerns. Truth is you have co-opted our messages without putting them into practice.

Von der Leyen warns CAP reform does not hit Green Deal

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen voiced concerns about the bloc's ongoing reform of farming policy, saying some of the aspects of the European Council and Parliament's negotiating position are not aligned with the flagship Green Deal.

MEPs host aviation lobby dinner on eve of climate vote

German liberal MEP Jan-Christoph Oetjen and Romanian centre-right MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu have organised a dinner in Strasbourg with Airlines for Europe (A4E). The dinner takes place on the eve of a crucial vote on climate change laws.

IEA says: Go green now, save €11 trillion later

The International Energy Agency finds that the clean energy investment needed to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius warming saves $12 trillion [€11.3 trillion] in fuel expenditure — and creates double the amount of jobs lost in fossil fuel-related industries.


How do you make embarrassing EU documents 'disappear'?

The EU Commission's new magic formula for avoiding scrutiny is simple. You declare the documents in question to be "short-lived correspondence for a preliminary exchange of views" and thus exempt them from being logged in the official inventory.

Latest News

  1. Added-value for Russia diamond ban, as G7 and EU prepare sanctions
  2. EU states to agree on asylum crisis bill, say EU officials
  3. Poland's culture of fear after three years of abortion 'ban'
  4. Time for a reset: EU regional funding needs overhauling
  5. Germany tightens police checks on Czech and Polish border
  6. EU Ombudsman warns of 'new normal' of crisis decision-making
  7. How do you make embarrassing EU documents 'disappear'?
  8. Resurgent Fico hopes for Slovak comeback at Saturday's election

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  2. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  3. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  4. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  5. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations
  2. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  3. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  4. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us