Underlying analysis for EU legislation – Do climate models support the Commission’s policy choices?

EU law and practice mandate the use of impartial Impact Assessments to guide the formation of EU policies, including climate policies. They are supposed to synthesise the best available cost, technology and scientific information.

At the heart of climate-relevant Impact Assessments are model-based scenario quantification tools. PRIMES is the Commission’s modelling tool for the EU Fit for 55 initiative. As with any tool, how the tool is wielded determines results. Incorrect assumptions provided to modellers can result in the well-known “garbage in / garbage out” phenomenon.

The Commission has relied on PRIMES for more than a decade as its primary modelling tool. When PRIMES first appeared, the Commission acknowledged the need for transparency in its use. However, some stakeholders argue that how the Commission uses PRIMES is unknown and unknowable to them as it refuses to disclose its modelling process. They also claim it forbids the managers of PRIMES from sharing details with public stakeholders.

If this is the case, it raises questions about the role and influence of the European Commission in a post-COVID world. The first is whether the Commission has a process to update information and assumptions in PRIMES to keep pace with quick moving developments in the real world – or whether PRIMES in 2021 continues to use modelling assumptions from before 2010. The second is whether PRIMES is being used not as a precursor to policy decisions, but rather to justify ideologically-driven policymaking.

Rewatch this EURACTIV Virtual Conference to find out about the Commission’s Impact Assessment for the transport sector in the latest climate package. If modelling data is seen to contradict real world data, what are the consequences? And who is responsible for ensuring that modelling assumptions evolve with real-world data, technology advances and the actual provisions of EU laws?

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Underlying analysis for EU legislation – Do climate models support the Commission's policy choices?

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