EU Climate Policies

The Challenge

The diversity and multi-level governance of 28 Member States in the European Union provide a challenging context for Europe’s climate policies. Experience in the energy, climate, and efficiency fields has shown that robust targets and effective enforcement mechanisms are necessary to provide a clear direction for EU climate policies. Currently, the 2020 ‘rudder’ is in limbo: the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) target for 2020 was already achieved by 2012, mainly as a result of the economic crisis and not directly related to the two key implementation tools covering all of Europe’s emissions – the Emissions Trading System (ETS) and the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) – are over-allocated and insufficiently stringent to drive efforts by governments and the private sector.

The mitigation goals Europe has set for 2020 are indeed low and there is the risk that the next set of 2030 targets reflects business-as-usual with current policies. The end goal for 2050 in itself is weak: governments are aiming for an 80% emissions reduction vs. 1990, while the IPCC concluded that developed countries need to aim for up to 95% to be in line with a 2°C warming scenario by the end of the century. Altogether, this provides limited incentive for strong policies and action on the ground.

Added to this challenge is the fact that over the coming two years, the EU will experience several key national and EU elections along with a change in leadership of the European Commission. These events will likely slow the pace of decision making just when it should be accelerating towards the 2015 climate negotiations.

The Opportunity

Europe must demonstrate to the rest of the world that it delivers on its commitments. Europe’s emissions may be a diminishing part of the world’s contribution to global warming, but – contrary to the allegations by some – its role as a model for developing policies and setting a benchmark for effort remains critical.

Success requires rallying a broad range of actors, not just environmental, but also in the business and trade union sectors, as well as consumer, health, and finance community groups. It also requires equating more effectively Europe’s economic success with a new path towards greater resource efficiency. Finally, it demands targeted activities in key Member States, coordinated with advocacy at EU level as the collective ambition both depends on the Member States’ aspirations and, in turn, influences Member States’ agendas.

Our Strategy

Our strategy is to support the rationale for stronger action by demonstrating the economic benefits, contradicting false claims of negative economic impact, and refining policy options through coordination of climate advocacy work at the national and EU level.

To support this strategy, we support the activities and coordination of advocacy groups, think tanks, and analytical groups in Brussels and across key Member States, in particular Germany, France, the UK, and Poland. For example, we partner with advocacy groups such as Climate Action Network Europe, WWF European Policy Office, Réseau Action Climat-France, and GermanWatch, and with think tanks or expert teams such as the Center for Clean Air Policy, Sandbag, and the Institut du Développement Durable et des Relations Internationales in Paris.

We also seek to link activities in different countries and venues in virtual campaigns, to make sure that the activities of different groups, albeit separate, feed off one another.

Focus Areas

The EU Climate Programme focuses on three main areas:

Driving towards a cohesive and ambitious 2030 framework for energy and climate policy
The 2030 framework is critical to Europe identifying and agreeing on its sources of its competitiveness in the future. This starts with a clear agreement on the limits of the business-as-usual mode and a shared sense of urgency and ambition in the face of the current high dependence on fossil fuel imports. As the necessary transformation of Europe to low-carbon economies is creating major upheavals in different regions and sectors, it is not only important to define a cohesive target framework, but we also need to concentrate on the dynamics and governance of the transition. The ECF is reaching out to a wide range of stakeholders from the environmental movement to energy-intensive industries to the financial sector to create a shared sense of opportunities, obstacles to implementation, and resolutions to the dilemma of having to shift investment patterns in a time of economic and financial crisis.

Strengthening the Emissions Trading Scheme
The ETS is the flagship of EU climate policy. However, in its current form and against the backdrop of an economic recession, the ETS does not deliver the necessary price signals for creating signification mitigation impact, having dropped from around €30/tonne of CO2 in 2008 to under €3 at some points in early 2013. Over the past few years, the ECF has built a case and mobilized support among stakeholders and Member States for strengthening the ETS.

Increasing climate ambitions under the Effort Sharing Decision
Similarly, the ESD is a key counterpart for Europe's non-ETS sector. Covering over half of Europe’s emissions, it has been largely ignored to date precisely because it sets very low targets for Member States. It is, however, a crucial tool to agree on different countries’ relative efforts.

For more information, please contact euclimatepolicies@europeanclimate.org.