EU governments should seize opportunities offered by public engagement to improve their NECPs

The EU Commission recommendations for the draft national energy and climate plans (NECPs) of EU countries fell woefully short in terms of providing guidance on fostering stakeholder and public participation. The new LIFE PlanUp “Report on good practices in energy and climate governance” fills this gap: it informs national policymakers on how to involve local actors like NGOs and local authorities and the public in their NECPs through multilevel climate and energy dialogues, and thereby leverage critical benefits for their plans.

The LIFE PlanUp report presents case studies from seven EU Member States – France, Netherlands, Sweden, Luxembourg, Ireland, Germany and Estonia – as well as from outside Europe, looking at Canada and the US State of California. 

In these examples, a multilevel climate and energy dialogue compliant with the EU regulation governing the NECPs (i.e. Article 11 of the Energy Union and Climate Action Governance Regulation) has been successfully developed and implemented in various ways. Furthermore, the examples met the LIFE PlanUp criteria for an energy and climate governance framework to be considered as a good practice. The nine good practices featured in the report are listed below:

  • France: National Debate for 2015 Law on the Energy Transition for Green Growth
  • Netherlands: Stakeholder roundtables for national climate agreement
  • Sweden: Parliamentary committee with stakeholders for Long-Term Climate Policy Framework 2017
  • Luxembourg: Climate Pact between State and municipalities
  • Ireland: The National Dialogue on Climate Action
  • Germany: National Dialogue for 2050 Climate Action Plan
  • Estonia: Stakeholder working groups for 2050 General Principles of Climate Policy
  • Canada: Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change
  • California: Stakeholder inclusion in Global Warming Solutions Act 

The good practices highlight a wealth of options for national policymakers to involve their citizens and local stakeholders in their NECPs. Stakeholder/citizen commissions, regional gatherings, climate councils, sectoral working groups or dialogue fora are just some of the proven and replicable formats that have been already successfully used at national level.

How can public engagement improve national climate plans? 

The report further shows that involving the public and local actors in a multilevel climate and energy dialogue brings multiple benefits for EU countries’ NECPs. 

By tapping into the experience, know-how and engagement of these stakeholders, national policymakers can leverage key contributions to the planning process, trigger further investments, share responsibilities more equitably, raise the plan’s overall ambition and ensure its more adequate and swift implementation. 

Such an approach also increases public support and ownership, mobilises all actors, strengthens coordination and cooperation between local and national policymakers and thereby bridges the gap between the local and national level in the NECP process.

Drawing from the experiences of the analysed good practices, the LIFE PlanUp report lays out 10 recommendations for national policymakers on how to develop and implement a multilevel climate and energy dialogue in their NECPs:

  1. Involve key political institutions in the design of governance framework to gather strong political backing; 
  2. Entrust local and regional authorities with a key role in a governance framework to achieve national goals;
  3. The leading institution in a governance framework should provide other entities with key functions in the process;
  4. Set up a governance structure that is equipped with the necessary means and a clear mandate;
  5. Engage and involve stakeholders and citizens through formats that enable co-creation, promote real debates and strike a balance of representation between all interests;
  6. Enable stakeholders and citizens to co-shape the process to develop and implement a governance framework;
  7. Make a governance framework actionable through sufficient resources, clear actions to undertake and a clear division of responsibilities;
  8. Make documentation and information available in an early and effective manner;
  9. Include procedures for strategic revision in a governance framework and build capacity to adjust to changes and challenges;
  10. Ensure effectiveness through ambitious and coherent targets, detailed and feasible policies and a clear and robust monitoring and evaluation process to track progress.

The full LIFE PlanUp “Report on good practices in energy and climate governance” can be found here.