If the EU is serious about decarbonising its economy, Europe needs a new climate and energy act, argues Sharon Turner.
Sharon Turner is the head of climate and energy for ClientEarth, an organisation of lawyers committed to securing a healthy planet.
This week the European Commission and senior officials from Member States will sit down for the first time to discuss the Commission’s proposals for EU climate and energy governance reform. This is a critical moment in the 2030 debate, because for the first time Member States will discuss in detail whether they are prepared to create a mechanism that genuinely ensures Europe will deliver its climate and energy targets and objectives.
Europe’s 2030 debate has been dominated so far by a focus on targets – how ambitious and how many. ClientEarth strongly supports that debate, but also takes the view that what has been ignored is whether Europe has the right mechanisms in place to ensure that targets and objectives are actually delivered in reality. In order words, a concern about ambition for effective governance has been missing from the 2030 debate. The failure of the ETS has been discussed at length. But this is only one part of a much more complex story that affects how the rest of Europe’s fragmented climate and energy regime has been poorly designed, badly implemented and under enforced. And it is a story that has been largely ignored – in particular by Member States.
The Commission’s 2030 Communication has at least put the issue of governance onto the table, which ClientEarth welcomes. However, it is far from clear that Member States and the Commission are moving Europe’s climate and energy governance landscape in a direction that will address the full scale of problems underpinning the 2020 package.
The stakes for Member States could not be higher. Europe’s ability to deliver a secure, affordable and sustainable energy future for itself and to make a fair contribution to global greenhouse gas emission reduction are now in the balance. Member States want and need more freedom to navigate their national energy transitions. Nevertheless, sending a stable signal to investors and a credible signal to global partners in climate negotiations will require them to learn the lessons of the 2020 package.
ClientEarth strongly believes that delivering the EU’s climate and energy targets and objectives will require Member States to support a dedicated governance pillar as a central element of the 2030 framework. We call this a ‘Climate and Energy Act for Europe’.
Most fundamentally the measure would create a stable and binding framework for more integrated, economy wide, climate and energy governance and one with a strong emphasis on delivery. The Act would bring together a strengthened version of the GHG governance model currently contained in the EU Effort Sharing Decision with the model for energy governance now being proposed by the Commission. It would commit the EU to achieving its 2030 greenhouse gas and energy targets and ideally the 2050 target thus providing a powerful legal symbol of commitment to delivering these outcomes. This Act would not be a replacement for the energy efficiency and renewables directives, but a strengthened vehicle to monitor and ensure delivery of targets.
The new Act would be designed to create a stable, long-term trajectory for ongoing planning, reviewing and reporting of EU and national progress towards climate and energy targets and objectives, which is currently missing in EU law. In addition to creating a more predictable regulatory context for investment in the energy transition, this process would be designed to streamline, integrate and rationalise the currently fragmented planning and reporting obligations imposed on Member States across the numerous EU climate and energy measures. It would also create a framework for better alignment of the EU’s energy market liberalisation and decarbonisation agendas.
The Act would be strongly informed by the principles of good climate and energy governance adapted to the needs of the EU context. First and foremost, it would explicitly acknowledge Member States’ freedom to choose the national energy mix but also the EU’s mandate to act on climate and energy. Secondly, it would be designed to ensure more optimised governance of the EU’s energy security, competitiveness and sustainability agendas and in this regard it is critical that the new indicators are designed to reflect and ensure a balanced focus on all three objectives. Third, it would create an EU framework for unlocking the benefits of regional governance. Fourth, the Act would ensure that climate and energy governance is informed by independent, expert advice and respects the principles of transparency, accountability and participation – principles that would apply to both Member States and the EU itself.