Low-Carbon Development Strategies: what changed in 2017?

Earlier this month the MaxiMiseR 2017 analysis of Low-Carbon Development Strategies was published. We took a moment and sat down with Jane Wallace Jones, project manager of MaxiMiseR to find out more.    

Q: What are the main findings of the 2017 analysis and what does that mean?

J: All in all, only thirteen out of twenty-eight Member States have strategies which qualify as LCDS under the MaxiMiseR criteria in 2017. This is four years after they were due to submit them. And generally, the LCDS are uneven in quality.

However, from other sources we know that quite a lot of other countries, such as Sweden, Spain and Portugal, are actually working on developing long term strategies and there seems to be an increased awareness on how to do them well.

Q. You already evaluated the plans submitted in 2015. What are the main differences?

J: The main message from the analysis is that not much seems to have actually changed in the European low-carbon development strategy (LCDS) landscape between 2015  and 2017. Estonia and the Czech Republic now have published LCDS for the first time, and the UK and Germany have delivered new strategies.

Q: How would you rate the quality of the LCDS submitted?

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J:  The quality of the LCDS evaluated varies enormously, with scores of 78% in the case of France and 25% in the case of the draft LCDS from Cyprus. This range remains unchanged from the previous evaluation, but overall the average score improved to 56%, which is slightly higher than the 2015 average of 50.5% . This improvement is thanks to the quality of the new LCDS as well as additional documents in the case of some of the previously scored LCDS, in the case of Ireland the score went up to 75%, scoring 41% in the 2015 analysis.

Q: How ambitious are the LCDS in terms of CO2 reduction?

J: Only seven of the thirteen national LCDSs have emissions reductions targets in line with the pre-Paris Agreement EU goal of 80-95% cuts by 2050 compared to 1990 levels: these are The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, The United Kingdom, Cyprus, Lithuania and the Czech Republic.

A high overall quality score for the LCDS and high emission reductions do not necessarily go hand in hand, because we assessed much more than just headline targets. So Member States may score well for how they go about developing and implementing their LCDS but they may not have an overall target which is ambitious enough or vice-versa.

Q: On what criteria is the assessment based and what are the conclusions of the 2017 assessment?



The assessment uses a methodology  that WWF developed with the Ecologic Institute. We base the overall score we give on how the plan did in various subcategories, consisting of 10 criteria. You’ll find a detailed overview of the evaluation tool in the annex of the previous report.

In 2017, Member States LCDSs scored best on public transparency, ambition and analytical basis. However, they did less well on monitoring their plans, making them easy to implement,  and  grounding them in solid political commitment - for example, through binding climate targets.

We can help ensure all Member States produce higher quality strategies by including clear requirements for these strategies , in the EU Energy Union governance regulation, which is being finalised in the next few weeks, and by providing  templates and guidance. In fact as guidance is missing at EU level, the MaxiMiseR project has come up with its own, to support Member States in developing their Low Carbon Development Strategies

Q: How optimistic are you that we can get this right for the future?

J: This may be wishful thinking, but I have a feeling that if this exercise were to be repeated in a year’s time, we would be nicely surprised by an increase in the number of long term climate strategies and an accompanying increase in their quality. It really is urgent, though, for the forthcoming Energy Union governance regulation to provide support to MS in producing strategies and to foresee enforcement mechanisms and regular review so that Member States deliver their strategies on time!

Read the full report here

Uneven 2050 climate plans show need for better EU rules

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There was little improvement in EU Member States’ 2050 climate plans between 2015 and 2017, new analysis from WWF shows. This makes the proposed Regulation on the Governance of the  Energy Union, currently under discussion, critical to ensuring EU Member States produce effective long-term emissions reduction strategies.

WWF found that just thirteen EU Member States had submitted long-term climate plans by 2017 - four years after all 28 were required by EU law to deliver them - and that those 13 are very uneven in quality.

“EU Member States agreed to make long-term plans for reducing emissions when they signed up to the Paris Agreement.  These plans are essential for tackling climate change. However, experience shows that without clear EU rules and some decent guidance, Member States are going to push climate plans down their priority lists”, commented Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office.

“It is therefore crucial that the Energy Union governance regulation - the rules of climate and energy planning - ensures Member States deliver ambitious and coherent 2050 climate strategies covering the whole economy on time. The European Commission should also provide guidance to help Member States produce higher quality strategies”, added Lübbeke.

The WWF EU LIFE-funded MaxiMiseR project analysis also found:

  • The quality of EU Member States countries’ 2050 climate plans - or ‘low-carbon development strategies’ (LCDS) in EU terminology - varies from 78% in the case of France to 25% in the case of the draft LCDS from Cyprus (see table below).

  • Only seven of the thirteen national LCDSs have emissions reductions targets in line with the pre-Paris Agreement EU goal of 80-95% cuts by 2050 compared to 1990 levels - the other seven were even lower. Since the Paris Agreement raised the level of global ambition, the emissions reductions by developed countries such as EU Member States should also be increased.

  • The thirteen LCDS submitted or updated in 2017 have an average score of 56%, which is slightly higher than the 2015 average of 50.5%. This small improvement is thanks to the quality of the new LCDS as well as the strengthening of some of the updated LCDS.

More information:

European Parliament: 
Environment & Energy Committees: 07.12.2017
Plenary: Q1 2018

Council of Ministers:
Energy Council: 18.12.2017

  •  Ranking of Member States' long-term climate plans, October 2017: 
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Businesses, investors, civil society launch call for strong EU 2050 climate strategies

Over 30 groups including business, civil society, investors and trade unions have today launched a joint statement in support of strong 2050 climate strategies. They call on the EU to make long-term climate strategies compulsory in the Energy Union governance regulation, and to provide guidance to help Member States make their strategies as effective as possible.


“We believe that long-term climate strategies are an essential part of the EU’s leadership and response to the climate change challenge. These strategies should provide long-term policy certainty for investors and guide a cost-effective and just transition to prosperous, carbon neutral economies”, the statement says.

“To have a fighting chance of upholding the Paris Agreement, and its commitment to work to keep global temperature rise to 1.5°C, the EU needs to be carbon neutral by 2050 at the latest. Ambitious and effective national strategies are critical for achieving this goal,” said Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office.

“The upcoming votes in the EU Parliament are key to beefing up the 2050 planning elements of the Energy Union governance proposal with guidance for Member States. This way we can ensure all EU countries deliver the strong climate strategies that businesses, investors, trade unions and civil society want,” Lübbeke added.

Specifically, the joint statement calls for strategies to:

  • Be consistent with the Paris Agreement, aiming for EU carbon neutrality by 2050, with legally binding 2050 targets

  • Be reviewed regularly and revised upwards in line with science

  • Cover all sources of and sinks for greenhouse gas emissions

  • Be open and transparent, detailing timing, funding and responsibilities

  • Be a basis for shorter term plans

Watch the video statement of Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office.

The joint statement is open for additional organisations to sign up. Contact Leia Achampong

The Paris Agreement requires all signatories to come up with mid-century decarbonisation plans. In the EU, this will be transposed into the Energy Union governance regulation. However, the proposed regulation is too weak. The joint statement calls on the EU to ensure strong climate strategies are made legally binding in the new Energy Union governance regulation, and that the regulation contains guidance for Member States on how to make a good 2050 strategy.

The European parliament will vote on the governance regulation proposal in committee on 7 December.

The signatory groups have been brought together via WWF’s EU LIFE and MAVA-funded MaxiMiseR project.

See the joint statement

Quotes from signatories:

”We see that climate change is developing in line with the worst case scenarios of the IPCC forecasts. To avoid disaster society has to become carbon neutral towards the mid of this century and carbon negative in the decades thereafter. It is important that politicians set strict carbon reduction goals and develop a clear framework. This will enable each of us, companies, cities, individuals to make long term plans and will give us security and stability. This will also make it much more difficult for shortsighted companies and individuals to fill their own pockets at the expense of future generations.” Steven Vanholme, EKOenergy

"Investors, along with leading businesses and NGOs, recognise the urgent need for the EU and its Member States to put in place ambitious, dredible 2050 decarbonisation strategies. Such a framework for the EU's energy laws will send the right policy signals to mobilise the trillions in capiral required to support the low-carbon transition." Stephanie Pfeifer, IIGCC

"Politicians do much when it comes to climate change, but the fact is that they only have their power as long as they are mandated. The urgency of the climate crisis and the longer perspectives needed is where we as young members of the civil society can help by pointing towards the long-term goals and remind the people in power of said goals: a sustainable society for all alive today and also for the future generations to come." Madeleine Norman, Push Sweden

WWF Webinar - How to produce long-term decarbonisation strategies

We are pleased to invite you to join our WWF MaxiMiseR webinar, How to produce long-term decarbonisation strategies, to be held on Wednesday, October 18th 2017, from 15:00 - 16:00 CEST.

Register here

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There will be 3 short presentations followed by a Q&A.


  • Ophelie Risler, Head of Climate Change department at the French Ministère de la Transition Écologique et Solidaire
  • Marianne Karlsen, Senior Adviser, Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, Department for Climate Change
  • Adam White, Senior Research Coordinator,  WWF European Policy Office
  • Kakhaberi Mdivani,  Chief Specialist of Climate Change Division of Integrated Management Department


    • Dr Tamara Inkster-Draper, Policy Project Manager, The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group/ University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership 

    Beyond government: bringing stakeholders together on 2050 climate strategies

    Getting citizens and businesses involved in long-term climate plans can make a huge difference to their success. That was the resounding message to come out of the MaxiMiseR project’s second round-table, on stakeholder involvement, which took place on 26 September

    Photo: WWF

    Photo: WWF

    “Research from OECD countries shows that where there is good public participation in policy development, the outcomes are far improved and the cost of implementing those policies is reduced”, explained Dr. Gillian Nelson, Policy Coordinator at Climate Action Network International.

    But to ensure this participation occurs, the process must be clearly outlined from the beginning and communicated throughout, said Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office.

    This was a lesson learned by the German government, according to Luisa Rölke, Head of Division  at the German Permanent Representation to the EU. She explained that her government’s recent consultation on its 2050 climate plan revealed that citizens and local communities were not familiar with the consultation process. So, while some groups agreed on specific measures, they were unaware that the input from other stakeholder groups, and the transformation into a government  strategy meant some of their ideas were not taken up.

    But including the public in the development and implementation of these plans is not just a nice-to-have, it is part of citizens’ rights under the Aarhus Convention, explained Marta Toporek, Lawyer and project leader at ClientEarth.

    “Under the Convention, the public should be consulted early in the process of developing plans, have reasonable time to participate, and due account must be taken of the outcome of the consultation”, she explained.  

    One way of reaching citizens is setting up actions closer to home, for example at local or city level. Cities around the world have become leading actors on climate change, with over 1,000 already having put forward 2030 climate & energy saving plans and set emissions reductions targets, pointed out Alix Bolle, EU Affairs Manager at Energy Cities.

    Canddie Magdelenat , Sustainable Cities Officer at WWF France, agreed. She gave the example of Rouen in France, which set targets for emissions reduction in sectors, such as buildings and transport with the help of stakeholder groups WWF France set up.

    At EU level, the Energy Union governance proposal is a key chance to strengthen national climate strategies for 2050, and push for guidance to be provided for Member States on what their strategies should contain, pointed out WWF’s Imke Lübbeke. The proposal will be put to a first Parliamentary vote on 28 November.

    For more information and upcoming events contact Leia 

    Photo: WWF

    Photo: WWF

    Join the call for strong 2050 climate strategies!

    Businesses, civil society, investors, public authorities and trade unions are joining the call for strong 2050 climate strategies!

    They all believe that tackling climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face today. If we do not act urgently and ambitiously, the impacts will be catastrophic.

    The Paris Agreement asks all countries to produce ‘long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies’. The European Commission has sought to reflect this in its proposal on Energy Union Governance.

    Those supporting the joint statement believe that these long-term strategies are an essential part of the EU’s response to the climate change challenge.

    They agree that these strategies should provide long term policy certainty for investors. The strategies should guide a cost-effective and just transition to prosperous, carbon neutral economies that provide sustainable business opportunities, good jobs, cleaner air and better health for all. 

    The statement calls on the EU and its Member States to ensure that their 2050 strategies are as strong as possible, in a number of ways. Read the full statement.

    26 Sep, event: Ensuring all voices are heard

    How to involve stakeholders in the development of 2050 climate strategies

    Photos: Kateryna Kurakina

    Photos: Kateryna Kurakina

    You are invited to a round-table on stakeholder involvement in 2050 climate strategies on Tuesday, September 26th from 9:30am-11am CEST at our offices (Rue du Commerce 123, 1000 Brussels). 

    Register now to attend the event by emailing Leia Achampong
    Register now for the livestream

    The event will focus on the benefits and challenges that stakeholder involvement can bring to a strategy’s development and implementation process. Experiences from countries and cities will  be shared.


    • Dr Gillian Nelson, Climate Action Network (International), Policy Coordinator
    • Marta Toporek, ClientEarth, Lawyer/Project leader
    • Luisa Rölke, German Permanent Representation to the EU, Head of Division 
    • Canddie Magdelenat, WWF One Planet City Challenge, Sustainable Cities Officer, France
    • Alix Bolle, Energy Cities, EU Affairs Manager


    • Imke Lübbeke, WWF European Policy Office, Head of Climate and Energy

    This roundtable is possible due to funding from the EU LIFE Programme for the Environment and the MAVA Foundation. Register now.