Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

Commission goes easy on scant national climate plans

  • Climate protest in Sheffield (UK), a few weeks before EU elections in which green parties did well (Photo: Tim Dennell)

EU member states must do a lot more to achieve their common climate and energy promises for 2030, analyses of national domestic plans by the European Commission revealed on Tuesday (18 June).

The commission published country-by-country recommendations on how to improve the 28 draft national energy and climate plans.

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  • EU commissioner MarosSefcovic (l): 'Today is not about criticism.' (Photo: European Commission)

However, the two commission politicians delivering the message did so in the most non-confrontational way, emphasising that the commission and the member states were on the same side.

"Member states have submitted impressive drafts in a relatively short time," said commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, responsible for the Energy Union brief.

"No draft is perfect. All of them will require additional work," he said.

"Let me be clear: today is not about criticism, it is about joining forces and standing ready to support the member state prepare national plans that are complete, reliable and with adequate level of ambition," said Sefcovic.

"This is not a naming-and-shaming exercise," added his colleague, EU commissioner for climate action Miguel Arias Canete.

"There is not a perfect plan and there is not the worst plans. All draft plans have strengths and weaknesses," he said.

The documents released on Tuesday, however, pointed out that the goals and planned measures in the draft national plans for 2030 do not add up to achieving the common EU goals for that date.

Take the EU's promises on renewable energy.

Last year, the commission, together with the European Parliament and national governments, decided that by 2030 at least 32 percent of the bloc's energy should come from renewable sources.

Unlike when renewable energy targets for 2020 were agreed, the EU regulation for 2030 did not establish national renewable energy targets.

On Tuesday, the commission concluded what many predicted at the time: there was a gap between the national planned roll-out of renewable energy and the EU target.

"Under current draft plans, instead of at least 32 percent, the share of renewable energy would reach between 30.4 percent and 31.9 percent in 2030 at Union level," the commission said.

National governments are asked to come with more ambitious targets - with no guarantee that they will.

'Climate fail'

While the commissioners holding Tuesday's press conference presented the results gently, Europe's environmental lobbies took a more combative approach.

"Recent months have seen a massive uprising of youth and social movements calling for emergency action to go fossil free, but these draft plans represent a big climate fail," said Friends of the Earth Europe.

"The climate plans submitted by governments are completely inadequate and the commission isn't doing anyone a favour by glossing over that fact," said Transport & Environment, an NGO.

"These recommendations confirm our findings that showed a clear ambition gap and a lack of concrete action by national governments," said Carbon Market Watch.

"The EU needs to raise the bar if it's serious about driving global efforts to stop climate breakdown," said Greenpeace.

"Every delay in climate action will cost lives, wreck the natural world and rob us of our future," it added.

Deadlines

Incidentally, even some of the draft plans were only submitted to Brussels with a delay.

Twelve of the 28 EU states were unable to respect the deadline of 31 December 2018 - even though all 28 governments voted in favour of the regulation that set the deadline.

Most of the late countries submitted their papers in January, but France, Spain, and Luxembourg sent theirs in mid-February.

On this aspect too, the commissioners were forgiving.

Canete even called it a "success" that all countries prepared their plans "by or very close to the deadline provided by the legislation" - i.e. that they did what they promised to do.

"This was not a given," said Canete.

Sefcovic stressed that it was the first time EU member states have had to produce these national plans "looking across policies, sectors and even across borders".

The plans were published two days before EU government leaders come to Brussels for an EU summit, in which climate change will be on the agenda.

The more ambitious countries are trying to have all leaders sign up to a long-term goal of a carbon neutral EU by 2050.

It also comes less than a month after green parties did well in the European parliament elections.

Four states block EU 2050 carbon neutral target

Poland, with the support from the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Estonia, blocked a commitment to climate neutrality by 2050. It is now just a footnote in the summit conclusions.

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