Governance is the "the glue that holds Europe's climate and energy policy together"

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What is 'Energy Union governance' and what does it have to do with 2050 climate plans? We talked to Caroline Westblom, EU Climate and Energy Policy Coordinator, Climate Action Network Europe.

What is governance and why does it matter?

I see the European Commission’s Energy Union governance proposal as the glue that holds all other climate and energy policy in Europe together. The role of the regulation is to streamline the monitoring and reporting for the other files, bringing them into one legislative framework. This is the first time such a thing has happened - previously, there were more than 50 different obligations for reporting and monitoring of EU climate and energy policy!

The way the proposal does this is with a requirement on EU countries to develop National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) up to 2030 and for every ten years thereafter. This creates a great opportunity for countries to have a much more integrated approach to their planning so they can contribute to the zero carbon transition in Europe. In the current absence of national binding targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency after 2020, it is also the provisions in the governance proposal that is supposed to ensure that targets are met.  

However, the governance proposal is not yet fit for purpose - both the parts on 2030 and on long-term plans must be strengthened.

What exactly does it say on long-term climate plans, and what are the key weaknesses?

The Energy Union governance proposal requires countries to to develop 50 year low emissions strategies, but in a way which is rather ad hoc. For example, it says the long-term plans should be developed by 2020, while the NECPs have to be delivered by 2019. It makes no sense to do the short-term planning before the long-term planning!

Another thing: the European Commission spells out that the long-term strategies are part of the EU’s contribution to meeting its Paris Agreement goals to  pursue efforts to keep global temperature rise to 1.5°C. However, in the proposal the Commission connects the strategies to the old EU roadmap of 80-95% reductions by 2050 - so there is a wide ambition gap.

Another point is that the long-term plans don’t require the same monitoring as the NECPs, as there is no template for how to do so. We would also like to see alignment, so both the long term strategies and the 2030 NECPs are assessed in 2023-2024.

The Commission made this proposal in November 2016 - what is the state of play in the EU institutions right now?   

The file is currently with the European Parliament and the EU Council. The Parliament rapporteurs, Claude Turmes and Michèle Rivasi from the European Greens, are  writing their  report which will be ready on 16 May and officially presented to the Parliament on 20 or 21 June. They see this as opportunity to work for higher climate and energy ambition in Europe. After they  present it, MEPs will have a week or two to submit amendments. The European Parliament’s plenary vote, which finalises its position, is expected to take place on 11-12 October.

The EU Member States are also discussing the proposal. So far, there have been a few working group meetings but only of the Member State energy experts - the climate & environment ones have been invited to take part but don’t have a full negotiating mandate. We think that since the governance proposal also covers climate, they should be equally involved.

The European Commission has asked the Council to have agreement on the proposal by the end this year - Energy Council meetings are scheduled for 24 October and 18 December. However at the moment this seems optimistic.

In terms of positions, Sweden and Germany are  defending the proposal, and there are a couple of other countries which have spoken  out in favour of it, such as Luxembourg, Denmark and Belgium. Most of the Member States however are not particularly keen on the proposal because they don’t like the administrative burden they feel it places on them.

What is CAN Europe calling for on the long-term planning element of the governance proposal?

We are fighting to get the time horizon changed. Currently the proposal calls for 50 year plans, meaning they will go to 2070. However, we need full decarbonisation in Europe already by 2050 to meet the Paris goals. Long-term strategies should go to 2050, aiming for zero emissions and 100% renewables by that time, while keeping the longer term horizon.

Another element is that the 50 year plans are at the moment for climate only, but the NECPs for 2030 also cover energy. We want the long-term plans also to include energy so the two are consistent.