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Measuring progress towards climate neutrality


How net zero indicators can improve planning and reporting in EU climate policy

Achieving climate neutrality requires structural changes to our economic system, with solutions that work across sectors. Correspondingly, measuring progress and designing policy towards the EU’s net zero ambition will require a framework that captures the complexity of the transition and reveals sufficiently in-depth information.

In the context of the recently adopted EU Climate Law and the upcoming Fit For 55 package, the ECF commissioned Ecologic Institute and IDDRI to prepare a proposal for such a monitoring methodology, and some reflections on its possible integration into policy processes.

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The new report “Measuring Progress towards Climate Neutrality” in ECF’s Net Zero 2050 series contributes to this discussion by presenting an assessment matrix based on net zero indicators that can measure climate neutrality. Importantly, it includes indicators to see whether we are putting in place the necessary enabling conditions for changes that will occur further into the transition – even if the impacts are not yet directly observable.

The report also proposes ways to integrate this framework into existing policy processes. In principle, such a framework could provide a bridge between the EU Climate Law and planning documents like the National Energy and Climate Plans and Long Term Strategies. It also offers a way to practically integrate the climate governance regime more closely with other parts of the EU framework such as the EU Semester and the 8th Environment Action Programme. The framework is equally applicable for planning and reporting at the national level.

The analysis comes in three parts (documents which you can access and download further below):

  • The summary document gives an overview of the basic concepts as well as central conclusions.
  • Part I: contains the technical proposal for net zero indicators.
  • Part II: analyses the political integration into EU processes.

The premise for the work is that – now that the EU has made the landmark step of putting its climate neutrality objective into law – a comprehensive and integrated set of ‘net zero indicators’ is needed to make sure that the EU can plan and track progress on the structural transformations that will be needed in all sectors to achieve climate neutrality. Importantly this should include indicators to see whether we are putting in place the necessary enabling conditions for changes that will occur further into the transition, even if the impacts are not yet directly observable.

An integrated set of Net Zero indicators could be a key tool to help deliver on the transformational changes that will be needed to reach climate neutrality. Digging below the emissions curve to make sure that all the right conditions are being created for change now and in the future will be key in delivering the European Green Deal and upholding the Climate Law.
Jytte Guteland MEP, rapporteur for the EU Climate Law in the European Parliament
  • About the Net-Zero 2050 initiative

    The Net-Zero 2050 is a new initiative of the European Climate Foundation with contributions from a consortium of experts and organisations funded by the ECF.

    The objective of Net-Zero 2050 is to start building a vision and evidence base for the transition to net-zero emission societies in Europe and beyond, by midcentury at the latest. The Paris Agreement commits us to make this transition, and long-term strategic planning shows that many of the decisions and actions needed to get us on track must be taken without delay. Reports in the series seek to enhance understanding of the implications and opportunities of moving to climate neutrality across the power, industry, buildings, transport, agriculture, Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sectors; to shed light on some of the near-term choices and actions needed to reach this goal, and to provide a basis for discussion and engagement with stakeholders and policy-makers.

    With acknowledgement of the source, reproduction of all or part of the publication is authorised, except for commercial purposes.

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