NECPs are ugly ducklings with potential to become swans

May 31, 2023

Why is the EU's latest unpronounceable acronym so important?

NECPs are the EU’s latest favorite buzzword. Why is everyone talking about them? And why does the EU consistently come up with such unpronounceable acronyms? While there is no answer to the second question, we can answer the first one.

NECPs – aka National Energy and Climate Plans – are planning documents where a government sets the destination for its economy and the direction of travel. The destination must be a sustainable, future-proof and zero-emission economy, in line with the EU’s climate and energy goals for 2030 and climate neutrality by mid-century. The travel must be a clear succession of steps to get safely to the destination.

How do we avoid trucks and buses keep burning the 64 million toe[1] of diesel it burned in 2021?

How do we ensure that families will be able to heat or cool their homes without polluting and at a reasonable cost?

How do we encourage and support European businesses to produce the zero emission fuels needed to take a plane without what the Swedish call flygskam (shame of flying)?

How do we produce the necessary renewable energy, in line with EU’s targets, without putting food production, forests, natural lands, biodiversity and ecosystems at risk?

These are only some of the few of the fundamental questions that governments should address with solid national energy and climate planning. To help decision-makers, T&E put together a list of essential actions that countries could include in their national Plans to put transport on track to deliver a zero emissions sector.

Coming up with a climate plan that delivers is not a trivial exercise. And on top of that, there is the risk that it is downgraded to paperwork by disengaged and short-sighted politics. It is worth reading the latest IPCC report (or a summary of its 85 pages) to understand that short-sighted politics at this point is a huge irreversible mistake.

Essentially, with its  NECP a country’s executive must tackle fundamental questions with far-reaching implications for society. Assuming that we agree that we must bring emissions down to zero, and that we need to do it quickly, then we need a plan to do that in an orderly and reasoned manner.

The current NECPs were set in 2019, and most were far from perfect. But since then a lot has changed and a refresh of the NECPs at this point is crucial. Not only has the EU stepped up its goals for energy and climate with the Climate Law and the package of measures proposed in July 2021, but the available technology and the geopolitical context have changed significantly in the last few years.

How is the replanning going so far? EU countries should present their refreshed NECP by the 30th of June. However, it seems that some countries are going to submit the document late. Another issue is the lack of sufficient involvement of stakeholders in the drafting process. A survey by CAN Europe and WWF released in April revealed that the majority of EU countries hadn’t even started a public consultation process yet. Since then, Italy has opened a questionnaire to input, but the time window given to stakeholders is too short (only 20 days!) and it comes quite late – only 1 month ahead of the drafts’ delivery date. The risk is that some of the flaws of the NECPs adopted in 2019 will remain in the updated versions and that the Union won’t be on track on its medium and long term objectives.

It is true that the Plans only set objectives and programmes for this decade (up to 2030) and their long-term impact might be difficult to grasp. But, as an intermediate step towards the 2050 finish line, the milestones and choices they set now can create path dependencies. In conclusion, this is the moment when EU governments can put their countries on the path towards a sustainable future by adopting far better versions of the Plans and transforming ugly ducklings into beautiful swans.

[1] Tonnes of oil equivalent

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