The European Union is set to fall short of its climate change spending targets by more than €11 billion, and possibly much more, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) warned today (22 November).
Climate action is vital if the EU is to meet its UN commitment to cap global warming at no more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.
The bloc has a target is spending at least one euro in every five of the EU budget on climate action between 2014 and 2020.
“There is a serious risk that the EU target will not be met,” said Phil Wynn Owen, the auditor responsible for a report published today.
Auditors criticised the European Commission’s use of its own methodologies to calculate climate spending, rather than those used by the OECD, an international standard-setter.
Applying the OECD rules to agriculture and rural development spending alone would reduce the climate cash by about €33 billion, according to the ECA, which exists to safeguard the interest of the taxpayer.
The Commission overestimated agriculture spending on climate action, making assumptions which lacked sound justification, auditors said. Agriculture is one of the major sectors that contribute to global warming in the EU.
There had been more climate spending in the European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund. But there was no significant shift in agriculture, rural development, fisheries and the European Social Fund
“Progress has been made but in key spending areas it is largely business as usual,” Wynn Owen said.
The EU had agreed that at least 20% of its 2014-2020 budget would go on climate. From 2014 to 2016, spending averaged just 17.6%. To make up the shortfall, the percentage of payments would need to increase to 22% from next year to 2020.
The EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme had allocated 24% of its spending to climate action. Its target was 35%. There is no plan setting out how the programme can catch up, auditors warned.
The report calls on the European Commission to correct any over-estimates and draw up plans to make up the shortfalls. More robust and realistic reporting, including on the climate benefits of any spending, was needed, auditors said.
The Commission told the ECA it was fully committed to fighting climate change and that it considered there “is a significant shift towards more climate action”.
The executive conceded that the tracking and implementation of climate spending in the EU budget could be improved, but it defended its methodologies as “innovative and detailed”.