Ambitious climate plans or a tick-the-box exercise?

All 28 EU Member States have finally submitted and published their draft National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) which are supposed to show how each country aims to reach its 2030 climate and energy targets. The million dollar question that everybody is asking now is “how good are these plans?”

Promoting good sectoral practices and fostering inclusive dialogue, PlanUp is looking especially at 5 draft NECPs: those from Romania, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Spain. Full in-depth analyses of all 5 countries’ plans will be available on the PlanUp website soon but, in the meantime, we will give you a flavour of our first assessment of these plans.

At first glance, the Romanian NECP includes several good policy measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in some of the most polluting sectors such as transport. However, the draft plan lacks a proper quantitative model to substantiate the objectives and measures presented in it. This means the real climate impacts of the Romanian plan remain unclear.

Italy’s draft NECP is a comprehensive document with in-depth analysis of all objectives presented. However, the plan lacks ambition and confidence as it (almost) strictly adheres to the three targets mandated in the Governance Regulation: 32.2% renewable energy sources, 32% energy efficiency and 33% reduction in GHG emission by 2030. After all, Italy has the potential to go beyond the minimum required by law, in particular when it comes to energy efficiency and renewable energy. For the time being, Italy is doing no more than ticking the boxes unfortunately.

The Polish NECP is generally short on specific policies, programs and ways to achieve the targets. This makes it quite difficult to reliably assess the extent to which the objectives set out in the plan are feasible and what effects they may have. The government seems sceptical about even reaching the (rather low) target of 7% of emissions reductions, describing it as ‘ambitious’. Unfortunately, this perception is based on the prediction that Poland, according to the government, may see its emissions grow by 14% between 2005 and 2020. Let’s hope the Polish government changes its yardstick for defining “ambition” soon.

Finally, the Spanish NECP, even if heavily delayed, stands out for its high ambition. Spain has set out to reach a 38% GHG emission reduction (compared to 2005), which means it will overshoot its target under the Climate Action Regulation (formerly known as the Effort Sharing Regulation) by almost 10 percentage points. The Spanish plan also presents a very clear long-term vision towards carbon neutrality by 2050 that includes an electrical system 100% powered by renewables.

Our preliminary analysis might look a bit bleak but let’s not forget that these are draft plans. The European Commission is currently reviewing the NECPs and will give recommendations to all Member States in June 2019. This will be a critical guidance for countries to rework and improve their plans. Member States that have submitted weaker NECPs have still the opportunity to make the necessary changes and increase their ambition. To this end, civil society’s input to NECPs public consultations is of paramount importance to hold national policymakers accountable to ensure plans are strong and effective.