NECPs – Analysis: EU ideals coming up against political realities
by Mike Scott, March 27, 2019
The European Union is trying to maintain its leadership on climate change with its Clean Energy for All Europeans package, which aims to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. The mechanism for achieving this target is member states’ National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs).
Climate Change Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete says the package is the most advanced regulatory framework supporting the clean energy transition in the world.
Environmental groups agree that the NECPs have the potential to turn the Paris Agreement into tangible action, but, as Carbon Market Watch warns, “the overall targets and objectives set forth by the EU climate and energy legislation establish merely a minimum expected ambition level. It is therefore fundamental that individual member states design NECPs that set far more ambitious goals than this required minimum.”
It was not a good start, then, that seven member states – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg and Spain – failed to submit their draft plans by deadline at the end of last year. Some of them had a good excuse – Spain’s new government, in power for just six months at the time – said that its predecessor had done no work on the plan at all, while Luxembourg’s new environment minister, former MEP Claude Turmes, wanted to comprehensively overhaul his country’s NECP.
Indeed, when Spain did finally submit its plan at the end of February, it was welcomed as “a breath of fresh air” by Iberdrola CEO Ignacio Galán. However, the plan to increase the share of renewables in power generation to 74% by 2030, with a doubling of wind power and a fourfold increase in solar, is under threat from an imminent general election that could see a new government water down the targets.
All of the plans, which the European Commission will review and make recommendations on in June, have now been filed, but as so often, the EU’s lofty ideals are coming up against national political realities.
France’s ambitions – to increase funding for solar and wind to €7bn-€8 billion a year and reduce final energy consumption by 34.4% by 2030 while increasing the proportion of energy coming from renewables to 34% – have been complicated by the gilets jaunes protests. France’s plan was one of those singled out as only partially complete and work is ongoing to update it as soon as possible.
A number of submissions, such as Germany’s and Austria’s, are incomplete and/or insufficient to meet EU targets. Green groups say many plans are merely reporting exercises rather than coherent strategies and some member states are aiming for the EU’s current target of an 80% cut in emissions by 2050, rather than the latest carbon neutrality goal required by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 1.5C report.
Germany’s plan was complicated by its battle to agree a coal phase-out plan and make recommendations on decarbonising transport, as well as infighting in the coalition government. While the environment minister called for an ambitious goal of at least a 95% reduction in emissions by 2050 and capturing and sequestering the other 5%, but many members of the Christian Democrat party have criticised the target amid the country’s coal phase out challenge.
Indeed, leaked documents seen by Euractiv suggest that Germany is now lining up as a coal state, with its more climate-sceptic Eastern neighbours including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to resist calls for carbon neutrality by 2050, in opposition to a group including France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, who back the decarbonisation plan.
Bankwatch says that “Member States across central and eastern Europe continue to do less than their fair share”, with efforts to increase renewables and energy efficiency as part of the energy mix negligible, as in Romania and Slovakia, whose plans include an increase in uptake of renewables from 25% to just 27.9% and 14% to only 18%, respectively.
“In Europe’s most energy-intense economy, Bulgaria has limited potentials gains in energy efficiency, because the NECP is designed to subsidise energy prices, thus disincentivising efficiency investments,” the NGO adds.
Other national plans include:
Greece – increase share of renewables in energy mix to 32%, including 55% of electricity use. Reduced reliance on lignite, use of natural gas for flexibility. Increase energy efficiency by one third. Upgrade or replace 40,000 residential buildings a year. Environmentalists say there is no explanation why Greece should remain locked into using coal and that it does not meet Paris Agreement ambitions.
Ireland – 30% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, from 2005 levels. Between 15.8% and 27.7% of energy to come from renewables. The draft NECP fails to clarify investment needs to 2030, the European Commission says. To meet its target, Ireland will have to buy carbon credits from other nations that have exceeded their targets.
Italy – Italy’s draft NECP is a comprehensive document,” says Plan Up. “However, the plan lacks ambition and confidence as it (almost) strictly adheres to the three targets mandated in the Governance Regulation: 32.2% renewable energy sources, 32% energy efficiency and 33% reduction in GHG emission by 2030. Italy has the potential to go beyond the minimum required by law, in particular when it comes to energy efficiency and renewable energy. For the time being, Italy is doing no more than ticking the boxes.”
Poland – According to Plan Up, “the Polish NECP is generally short on specific policies, programs and ways to achieve the targets. This makes it quite difficult to reliably assess the extent to which the objectives set out in the plan are feasible and what effects they may have. The government seems sceptical about even reaching the (rather low) target of 7% of emissions reductions, describing it as ‘ambitious’.” Bankwatch points out that Poland’s main decarbonisation plan is more nuclear power, which “even in the most optimistic scenario the nuclear power plant will not go online before 2033, and its economic viability is questionable”.
This sample of plans suggests that many member states are failing to “seize the opportunity the development of an NECP brings, to cover for existing gaps in national legislation, and pave the way for higher ambition,” which the Climate Action Network Europe says is necessary. “All NECPs should also, given the current level of ambition of all EU climate and energy policy is too low to ensure delivery towards the Paris Agreement, include a robust and specific process for how each update of the NECP will be more ambitious than the previous one.”
NECP timeline and consultation process:
- By 31 December 2018: Member States prepare and submit to the Commission a draft of the NECP
- By 30 June 2019: The Commission may issue recommendations on the draft plans
- By 31 December 2019: Member States notify to the Commission their final NECP covering 2021-2030, as well as a summary of the public’s views
- By 15 March 2023: (+ every 2 years thereafter) Member States shall report to the Commission on the status of implementation of their NECP, including progress on reaching the targets, updates on policies and measures, and projections
- By 30 June 2023: Member States submit a draft update of the NECP to the Commission or justify that the current plan remains valid
- By 30 June 2024: Member States shall notify to the Commission a (final) update of the NECPs unless they have justified that the current plan remains valid
Source: Carbon Market Watch