NECPs process: How are EU Member States developing their engagement strategies?

One month after the deadline, 23 draft NECPs have been submitted to the European Commission leaving the remaining 4 namely Cyprus, Luxembourg, Spain, and Malta still pending to be publicly available. Spain and Cyprus have anticipated that the publication will happen in the coming days, while Malta and Luxembourg are not providing any new update.

Stakeholder engagement: A crucial element for open and inclusive policy making

NECPs represent the key for Member States (MSs) to show their 2030 energy and climate commitments. They can unlock tangible policies and measures that not only determine how many GHG emissions will be cut up to end of the next decade, but also lead the crucial transition toward carbon-free societies by 2050. This goal cannot be achieved only at the national government level, but it requires the involvement of all actors, from regional and local authorities through civil society. At the same time, the NECP process provides an opportunity for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to help shape key national energy and climate decisions until 2030, ensuring that all EU Members are aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

To achieve ambitious plans that set countries on the correct decarbonisation pathway, Member States have to ensure impactful public participation during the preparation of their NECPs. Article 10 of the EU’S Governance Regulation provides rules on public participation and highlights the need to set “reasonable timeframes allowing sufficient time for the public to be informed, to participate, and express its views in the preparation of the final plan well before its adoption.”

A snapshot on public consultation: How countries developed their engagement strategies for the draft NECPs?

If you consider the NECP drafts currently submitted to the European Commission, it is evident there are various levels and timeframes of public participation assured by each Member State. For instance, countries such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and France opened a public consultation for several months, in some cases years, during the preparation of the draft.

A noteworthy example of this is Finland, which informed and involved several stakeholder groups from November 2015 to November 2018! The targets and policy measures included in the Finnish NECP were based on a National Energy and Climate Strategy for 2030 and the Medium-term Climate Change Plan for 2030 developed in 2016 and 2017 respectively. These documents were all opened for extensive consultations, which were carried out through web-based public hearings as well as thematic stakeholder seminars, and involved all relevant parties, organisations, non-governmental organisations, labour market parties, and individual citizens.

Other countries, such as Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Romania, and Sweden established a public consultation but failed to respect some of its basic rules. In Romania the timeframe to provide input was too tight - only 10 days were given to stakeholders to send feedback; in the Czech Republic, the website where the NECP draft had been published was difficult to find, as the draft was posted only on the website of the Ministry of Industry and Trade; in Poland, the public consultations were opened exclusively to certain categories of stakeholders, namely to only inter-ministerial groups.   

On the opposite side, Member States like Bulgaria, Italy, and Lithuania did not plan any public consultation yet, while Germany will announce its public consultation only after having received the recommendations of the European Commission on the draft NECPs submitted, which are expected to be in June 2019.

Some tips for effective public consultations

Differences among the EU countries in approaching public consultations give further reasoning why effective public consultation mechanisms and procedures need to be key principles in the NECP process. EU Member States should therefore respect the following:

  • Ensure early and effective opportunities for public participation in the preparation of the final national climate plans well before their adoption;
  • Make the draft and final NECPs publicly available, as well as the NECP Progress Reports, the national projections and relevant assessments of the costs and effects of national policies;
  • Set reasonable timeframes in order to allow sufficient time for the public to be informed, participate and express its views;
  • Establish a Multilevel Climate and Energy Dialogue where local authorities, NGOs, business, investors and the general public can actively engage and discuss the climate and energy policy scenarios as well as review progress. NECPs could be discussed within such a dialogue, but this is not a requirement.

As a consequence, National Energy & Climate Plans can only be successful tools for low-carbon pathways if participation, openness, accountability, effectiveness, and coherence are the basis for European societies to engage in every step of their implementation.