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  • Just three EU countries showing climate ambition in line with Paris agreement

    Only three European countries are pursuing climate policies that could deliver on the promises made at the Paris climate conference, according to a new ranking published by T&E and NGO Carbon Market Watch. Sweden, Germany and France top the ranking, which is based on the ambition being shown by member states as they negotiate the terms of the EU’s most powerful climate tool, the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR).

    Meanwhile, the 24 other countries are falling well short of what is needed to avoid a 1.5/2°C temperature increase and catastrophic climate change. Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain and Italy perform worst in the ranking due to their support for accounting tricks such as using a misleading baseline, abusing forestry credits or exploiting the emission trading system’s huge surplus. One member state, Malta, is not included as no data was available for the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency.

    T&E’s transport and energy analyst, Carlos Calvo Ambel, said: ‘This is the most important climate law that will enable Europe to deliver on the Paris agreement. But the great majority of countries want to rig the law with loopholes so they can continue business as usual. Either Europe follows the lead of Sweden, Germany and France, which are going in the right direction though not far enough, or we should forget about our climate leadership.’

    The ranking was compiled based on government statements and official documents submitted to the European Commission. Member states are laying out their positions as part of negotiations of the ESR, which will cover the 60% of EU emissions that come from transport, buildings, agriculture and waste management. These sectors fall outside the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS).

    Calvo Ambel added: ‘The ESR, and EU and national measures – left open to governments to help achieve the climate target – can tap into the numerous possibilities in these sectors to deliver sustainable growth and concrete benefits for citizens in the form of cleaner air, better jobs, warmer houses, and less energy poverty.’

    Among the loopholes being proposed by countries is a later and higher baseline for measuring their CO2 cuts and greater use of forestry credits to meet the EU’s climate goal.

    The ranking’s report states: ‘Relying on credits from planting trees is troublesome as the carbon removals can be reversed at any time when trees are cleared and burned. Emissions from fossil fuels, on the other hand, stay in the atmosphere for centuries.’

    Nine member states want to exploit the ETS’s huge surplus of 100 million allowances, worth an expected €2 billion, to help them meet their emissions obligations on paper.

    Carbon Market Watch’s EU policy director, Femke De Jong, said: ‘EU politicians portraying themselves as climate leaders should put their money where their mouth is by closing loopholes in the EU’s key climate law and pushing for more ambition. Only with determined climate action will lawmakers ensure that European citizens can enjoy the significant benefits of a decarbonised society, such as clean air.’

    Once EU member states have agreed a joint position on the ESR, they will start talks with the European Parliament. The final law is expected to be adopted by the end of 2017.