2050 decarbonisation strategies are vital for ambitious and well implemented climate policy today. However, the EU’s Energy Union governance proposal does not do enough to help Member States develop such strategies effectively, according to a report from research institute IDDRI and the Ecologic Institute: 'Developing 2050 decarbonization strategies in the EU: Insights on good practice from national experiences’.
MaxiMiseR spoke to Oliver Sartor, Research Fellow in Climate and Energy Policy at IDDRI, to find out more.
MaxiMiser: Why did you decide to do a report on 2050 decarbonisation strategies?
Sartor: We think that 2050 decarbonisation strategies are an essential part of good governance of the low-carbon transition in any country. We felt it was crucial that 2050 strategies were included in the EU’s 2030 governance proposal, which was published last November. We wanted to know, out of those countries which already have a 2050 strategy, which have been effective, and what are the important elements of these plans.
Do you think having a 2050 strategy impact policy decisions today?
Yes! We had already done a report on how G20 countries can decarbonise in line with keeping temperature rise under 2 degrees. This report had shown us how much the policy discussion today changes when you start at 2050 and look backwards. This is because starting with a 2050 strategy shows you that you need more ambition short-term, but also that there are specific things you need to do to prepare the clean energy transition. An example would be thinking sector by sector rather than just setting an overall target. So for transport, you ask what we have to do now to transform travel - electric vehicles, infrastructure - to get to where we want.
You looked a specific European countries’ 2050 strategies: what did you find?
We looked at Denmark, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Poland, and the UK. The three strongest 2050 strategies were those of France, Germany and the UK. In each case, the strategy had an impact on the short-term policies of the country, which were made more ambitious in order to bring them into line with the country’s 2050 goals. This often meant the 2030 national target became more ambitious than the EU’s target. In the UK, the carbon budget is for a 57% emissions reduction between 2028 and 2032, which is more ambitious than the 40% EU emissions reductions target.
You also find in countries with a 2050 strategy that there is more granularity about what policies and measures should be put in place to get there. For example, more of a breakdown of the sources of emissions and drivers of the emissions, and of what needs to be done in each sector.
Do the strategies go beyond decarbonisation?
Yes - 2050 strategies are social and political documents, not just technical ones. Energy transitions have significant impacts which require changes of lifestyle.
A 2050 scenario shows not just one but a range of things that need to be done now in different economic areas. For instance, in France, they realised they needed to diversify electricity mix more to meet their goals, and provide more support for renewables.
Germany’s plan brought the coal phase-out issue onto the table. While it doesn’t contain ambitious targets for ending coal, it does have one for energy overall. It has also set up a committee for coal regions to help the transition.
What is the message of the report for the EU?
The EU’s 2030 governance proposal must provide more information on the content of the long-term strategies, and the process by which they should be put in place.
Also, it is a mistake to focus, as the EU does, on strategies to 2070. 2050 is a much better year for a decarbonisation strategy because it provides insights for 2020-2030, whereas 2070 is too far in the future.
Furthermore, the guidance the EU gives on the content of the long-term strategies is not detailed enough. The EU must ensure countries’ 2030 climate and energy policy is consistent with their longer term policy. The strategies should assess the implications of the planned transition for the coming decade.
Then there are some ‘nice to haves’. For example, it would be good if the strategies contained an analysis of risks or challenges, as well as information on how they relate to other national policy priorities. Another important element is stakeholder consultation, which gives the strategy legitimacy. The current proposal doesn’t mention it at all.
What level of ambition should the strategies contain?
The strategies should be consistent with EU’s 2050 goal of 80-95% emissions reductions at the least.
What is the message from your work on long-term strategies for civil society?
It is useful for civil society to ask for this process as it should then get a seat at the table in influencing the strategy.
Any last words?
Overall, we are concerned about the European Commission’s approach to long-term decarbonisation strategies in the governance regulation - they don’t see them as very important, with only two paragraphs of the document referring to these plans. The Commission does not yet see long-term decarbonisation strategies as a key building block of governance of EU policy. This transition will require fundamental changes in Member States and they need as much guidance from the EU on ways to get there as possible.
- Read: ‘Developing 2050 decarbonization strategies in the EU: Insights on good practice from national experiences’.
- MaxiMiseR’s report analysing EU Member State low-carbon development strategies will be published on 6 April.