Make climate planning part of an economy-wide strategy

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.com PLC.

The EU is already struggling to live up to the promises it made at the COP 21. [Le Centre d'Information sur l'Eau/Flickr]

The EU must radically improve its climate and energy plans if the Paris Agreement is to be anything more than a missed opportunity, write Geneviève Pons and Imke Lübbeke.

Geneviève Pons is director of European policy and Imke Lübbeke is head of climate and energy at WWF.

In Europe only Sweden, Germany and France currently have 2030 environmental policies in line with the pledges made at the Paris climate conference, a study revealed last week.

The fact that nearly all member states fall short of the EU’s commitment to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% for 2030 is worrying indeed.

Short and mid-term emissions reductions targets are crucial for showing the direction of travel and the level of ambition. But as a new assessment from WWF’s MaxiMiseR project makes clear, targets are most effective when they are part of an economy-wide, longer-term strategy.

This is why, alongside its temperature targets, the Paris Agreement requires countries to produce long-term strategies to reduce carbon emissions. Indeed, the Paris Agreement’s 2050 Pathways Platform was launched last November with the specific aim of supporting players – from countries to cities and companies – who wish to make their long-term low-emissions planning as good as possible.

In the EU, even prior to the Paris Agreement, member states were required to produce 2050 climate plans. Yet only a handful of them – 11 out of 28 – actually managed it by the 2015 deadline. What’s more, the plans that were produced vary widely in quality and content, according to WWF’s assessment.

This weak performance in the EU does not bode well for the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement, and it has little chance of being corrected if the Commission’s proposed laws on national climate and energy plans are not radically improved. The European Parliament and the Council must significantly strengthen the references in the proposals to the need for long-term strategies.

In addition to beefing up its rules on long-term climate and energy plans, the EU must also make sure that every member state actually produces one – and that the plans are consistent with the Paris Agreement’s well below 2°C goal. Plans should be produced in a transparent way, with input from business and civil society. They should be clear on responsibilities, timelines and funding; partly or fully legally binding, and publicly available.

This does not just apply to Europe of course, but to all countries that signed up to the Paris Agreement. By ensuring countries have a clear, effective, practical and ambitious vision set down on how they will decarbonise – which includes ambitious targets – we can help investors, businesses, trade unions and citizens know exactly where they are headed, how they will get there, and the milestones they need to pass on the way.

This, in turn, will help us decarbonise our economy by 2050, bringing sustainable job opportunities, better health, increased wellbeing and a safer future for us all.