The European Commission is reviewing its 2020 work programme in light of the coronavirus crisis. Although climate policies remain broadly on track, other initiatives under the European Green Deal are being delayed because they are considered “less essential”.
The coronavirus crisis is putting Commission staff under unprecedented pressure to deal with “urgent, new and existing COVID-19 related files,” according to a draft document seen by EURACTIV.
In order “to free up capacity,” the EU executive is preparing an updated work programme for 2020 which is expected to be published on 29 April.
“Given the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Commission is currently reviewing its work programme for 2020,” an EU spokesperson confirmed. “A new programme will be published in the coming weeks,” the spokesperson told EURACTIV.
As part of the review, the Commission’s secretariat general is assessing whether new policy initiatives can afford to be postponed because they are neither directly related to COVID-19 or are considered “less essential for delivery on the absolute key priorities”.
Among the “absolute key priorities” that will remain unchanged, the document mentions “in particular targeted priority files related under the ecological and digital transitions”.
Those are marked in green in the document and should go ahead as planned. In yellow are initiatives that can afford to be delayed until later in 2020. Finally, the document marks in red the initiatives that will be delayed to 2021.
The full list is reproduced below, with indications of initial timing, legal status, and comments from the Commission’s secretariat general.
INITIATIVES MARKED IN GREEN (maintained):
- Renewed Sustainable Finance Strategy (non-legislative, Q3 2020): This is considered an “important part” of the Green Deal and a “key contributor” to the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and will therefore be maintained.
- 2030 Climate Target Plan (non-legislative, including impact assessment, Q3 2020): New climate targets for 2030 are seen as “a pivotal element of the Commission’s climate policy”. However, due to the postponement of the UN climate conference in Glasgow (COP26), “additional time could therefore be given to a complex analytical exercise underpinning the elaboration of new targets,” the document states.
- Renovation wave (non-legislative, Q3 2020); “The renovation wave could be a key element of any post-COVID recovery plan because of its benefits for stimulating economic activity,” the document says, suggesting the timing will be maintained.
INITIATIVES MARKED IN YELLOW (delay possible):
- The European Climate Pact (non-legislative, Q3 2020): “The aim was to establish the Climate pact platform in the autumn before the planned Conference of the Parties in Glasgow which has however been postponed.”
- Review of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (legislative, including impact assessment, Article 114 TFEU, Q4 2020): “Even though there is no urgency with this file, nothing prevents to keep the adoption in December, as initially planned,” the document states.
- ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy (non-legislative, Q1 2020): Although this is considered “a very important initiative”, it should “also reflect the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to food security. This might make a postponement necessary,” the document says.
- Strategy for smart sector integration (non-legislative, Q2 2020): Smart sector integration is considered as “an important blueprint” for the energy transition. “But a postponement would not be detrimental and could be packaged with other initiatives such as the state of the Energy Union report in October,” the document states.
- Offshore renewable energy (non-legislative, Q4 2020): Currently envisaged for October, the strategy for offshore renewable energy is timed to coincide with announcements by EU member states that are members of the North Sea Alliance. “It is also a priority for the German Presidency and could also be a significant element of a post-COVID recovery plan,” the document states.
- EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 (non-legislative, Q1 2020): “Adoption of the biodiversity strategy is envisaged for 29 April,” the document says. But the UN conference of the parties has been postponed and the UN ministerial will discuss biodiversity in September. “So while the absolute urgency may have receded current timing is desirable or shortly thereafter. It is closely related to the Farm to Fork initiative,” the document states.
- 8th Environmental Action Programme (legislative, Article 192(3) TFEU, Q2 2020): “It is still very unclear what the 8th Environmental Action Plan (EAP) will contain and the added value it can provide,” the document states. “While the 7th EAP expires at the end of 2020 there is no reason why this initiative cannot wait until the second half of 2020,” it adds.
- Chemicals strategy for sustainability (non-legislative, Q3 2020): This is considered a “a key element of the Commission’s ambition to tackle all sources of pollution,” the document states. “Work is on track but further delay would not be detrimental,” it adds.
- Strategy for sustainable and smart mobility (non-legislative, Q4 2020): “Maintaining the date of adoption is appropriate but the content and ambition is linked to the ‘Communication on 2030 climate targets (n°1) and the timing should be linked to this. Timing is sufficiently late to reflect post-COVID lessons and recovery.”
INITIATIVES MARKED IN RED (delayed to 2021):
- New EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change (non-legislative, Q4 2020) and New EU Forest Strategy (non-legislative, Q4 2020): “Both the forest strategy and the adaptation strategy are important initiatives but not time critical in relation to climate policy overall,” the document states. However, “the strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change was originally envisaged for 2021 in any event and delay will now allow an impact assessment to be prepared. Postponement would also allow better articulation with the new EU climate targets for 2030 and the delayed international discussions on biodiversity.”
- Empowering the consumer for the green transition (legislative, incl. impact assessment, Article 114 TFEU, Q4 2020): “This initiative is an important element of the Circular Economy package whose technical work is on track. However, this initiative on empowering consumers could be delayed to 2021 without undue detriment and might be packaged with circular economy initiatives on sustainable products,” the document states.
- ReFuelEU Aviation – Sustainable Aviation Fuels (legislative, incl. impact assessment, Article 100(2) TFEU and/or Article 192(1) TFEU, Q4 2020) and FuelEU Maritime – Green European Maritime Space (legislative, incl. impact assessment, Article 100(2) TFEU and/or Article 192(1) TFEU, Q4 2020): “The two fuel initiatives are important but already coming late in 2020 and can be delayed without undue problems to 2021 when many other important climate-related proposals will be tabled,” the document states.