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 two 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?

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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