Commission turns blind eye to ‘inadequate’ climate plans

European governments’ climate plans will not meet the EU’s 2030 decarbonisation target for transport, a new analysis shows. Yet the European Commission is letting national governments off the hook in refusing to criticise them, said T&E, which compiled the ranking of the 28 governments’ draft documents.

Under energy union and climate action rules, EU countries are required to develop integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) for the period 2021 to 2030 based on a common template. They had to submit their first drafts by the end of 2018, the Commission had to assess and comment on them by the end of June, and the final NECPs will be agreed by the end of December.

In advance of the Commission’s review, T&E published a climate ranking showing how close each member state is to taking sufficient action in the transport sector to be climate compatible by 2030. The ranking confirms that governments’ plans to cut pollution from transport, Europe’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, will fail to meet their own 2030 emissions targets and, most importantly, deliver decarbonisation in 2050.

The best performing member state in the analysis is the Netherlands, but the government’s new climate agreement will make it very hard to achieve the presented targets. Among the countries with the least adequate plans are Germany in 15th place, which has included measures to reduce emissions by just 28% compared to 1990 levels. Germany has a target of reducing emissions 40-42%. Decisions on most of the actual content of its plan have been postponed until it publishes the final document.

The EU regulation underlying the rules on NECPs allows the Commission to call out a member state that has not pledged high enough contributions to EU climate targets in its NECP, or if it is falling behind schedule in delivering targets. The legislation says EU climate targets are minimum levels of ambition, with member states free to adopt more ambitious climate and energy plans if they wish.

Yet, despite none of the NECPs offering measures for the EU to deliver on its commitments under the Paris climate accord, the Commission is not giving specific recommendations to member states showing low ambition. A package of 28 reports (one for each country) includes specific recommendations, but in none of them is the NECP deemed unacceptable for transport emissions.

T&E’s trends and analysis director Carlos Calvo Ambel said: ‘The climate plans submitted by governments are completely inadequate, and the Commission isn’t doing anyone a favour by glossing over that fact. It also fails to acknowledge that the EU itself needs to do much more to clean up transport, in particular by making electromobility a top industrial priority and by greening investment and taxation. Unless something drastically changes, we will miss our 2030 climate goals by a big margin.

‘In theory, if governments’ climate plans will see them miss the EU’s binding 2030 emissions targets, they could be taken to court and fined, or be forced to pay for emission reductions in other EU countries.’

In a related development, T&E has joined with five Italian environment NGOs to urge the Italian government to significantly increase its clean air ambitions. The six say the measures in the government’s energy and climate plan for 2030 are insufficient to decarbonise transport, and they list ‘10 minimum priority and non-exhaustive recommendations’ needed to reduce the major contribution transport makes to climate change and other environmental issues.