Expert: Commission should expose weaknesses in national transport decarbonisation plans

Joao Pacheco: "If, as it is likely, the 2020 targets are missed, the Commission should also examine which regulatory elements are constraining further reductions of emissions and propose adequate modifications.” [Shutterstock]

This article is part of our special report EU transport decarbonisation: What’s the cost?.

The European Commission should ask member states to provide cost assessments of carbon abatement in their transport decarbonisation plans, but also to compare “alternative paths to decarbonisation” and look beyond Europe for inspiration, an international expert on agricultural issues told EURACTIV.com.

Speaking about national energy and climate plans drafted by member states in response to the revised EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), Joao Pacheco, a senior fellow at Farm Europe, said:

“They should compare the costs of alternative paths to decarbonisation, and benefit from successful experiences in other member states, and indeed in other countries where there are actions to decarbonise transport like in the US or Brazil”.

EU member states are currently drafting their 10-year national energy and climate plans (NECPs) specifying their options to decarbonise transport offered by RED II.

However, Farm Europe, a think tank specialising in agricultural topics, has published a study suggesting that the EU states risk failing due to the lack of a calculation method on the cost-effectiveness of their proposals.

According to the study, only three member states, Finland, Italy and Spain, have a robust transport decarbonisation plan.

Study: No EU country has calculated transport decarbonisation costs

The EU risks missing its target to decarbonise transport by 2030, as in the current draft plans of member states, there is no cost-effectiveness calculation of the different proposed measures, a study has found.

Governance Regulation requirement

An EU source told EURACTIV earlier this week that in the context of the NECP process, no such specific analysis has been undertaken, as the EU’s Governance Regulation doesn’t foresee it.

The Governance Regulation explicitly states: “This Regulation sets out the necessary legislative foundation for reliable, inclusive, cost-efficient, transparent and predictable governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action.”

Pacheco, former deputy director-general in DG AGRI, said the cost-assessment is required by the Governance Regulation and for a good reason, which is that “the public acceptance of the efforts to be made depends upon the costs (and the way they are distributed)”.

“High abatement costs could bring public resistance, and ultimately render unrealistic the measures proposed.”

Exposing weaknesses

He emphasised that the executive should provide a public in-depth review of the NECPs but also thoroughly assess their conformity to the Governance Regulation requirements.

“In particular, the European Commission should evaluate the credibility of the national plans, measure the tons of carbon that would be abated as a result of those plans by 2030, and assess the cost of the measures proposed,” the Portuguese expert said.

He added that the EU executive should “publicly expose” weaknesses in the NECPs with a view to prodding national governments into acting consistently, otherwise the bloc will be unable to meet its own internal targets as well as the Paris climate goals.

Asked why there has not been any discussion of costs in Brussels, he replied that one gets the impression the EU is rushing to set new targets and levels of ambition rather than making sure to implement the existing ones.

“It is fundamental, in our view, to assess the reasons why the EU risks being short on the 2020 targets, and identify the best pathways, less costly for the society, to meet its goals.”

“If, as is likely, the 2020 targets are missed, the Commission should also examine which regulatory elements are constraining further reductions of emissions and propose adequate modifications,” Pacheco said.

“For instance, one of the cheapest ways to decarbonise transport is by using sustainable biofuels, but they face a stringent cap in the recently modified Renewable Energy Directive. How can this be justified if the EU is below its decarbonisation targets?” Pacheco said.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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