The EU Green Deal will need strong energy and climate plans

On 21 January, PlanUp organised a high-level event with representatives from the European Commission, European Parliament and the Council as well as civil society and academia to discuss the role that the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) can play to help Europe meet its climate neutrality goal.

“Keeping global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees has significant benefits when it comes to managing climate-related risks - and governments should pay more attention to this”, said keynote speaker Michiel Schaeffer from Climate Analytics.

He had some good news to share: a soon to be released study by Climate Analytics will show that there is a lot of climate action happening at the local level in the EU member states, and already scaling up good practices will bring us very close to what Europe needs to do to reach the Paris Agreement goals.

Climate policy that leaves no one behind

Possibly the most sought after speaker of the day, Diederik Samsom, head of the cabinet of Commissioner Timmermans laid out the Commission’s Green Deal plan, calling for everyone’s contribution to make it a success: “We need your help. A real societal change is never designed in one building, it’s both bottom-up and top-down. This is what we’ll need to focus on in the next five years.”

Ludovic Voet from the European Trade Union Confederation welcomed the climate package and its social dimension. His key message was that workers and unions had to be included in the design of climate policies on all levels. “Only a transition that leaves no none behind, has a chance of succeeding”. 

The European Parliament sees the “Green Deal as a huge opportunity that brings a much-needed vision for Europe”, said MEP Peter Liese from the European People’s Party. But commitments needed to translate into concrete action if we are to make the transition happen, he added.

Speaking on behalf of the Corporate Leaders Groups, Martin Porter said that the Green Deal gave businesses the confidence to plan for the future and to innovate and the signal it sends on the global level should not be underestimated.

NGOs generally welcome the deal too, though they are more cautious about certain details while underlining that at the end of the day, what matters is the implementation and short-term climate action. Patrick Ten Brink from the European Environmental Bureau said that financing the Green Deal will require smart use of the EU budget and loosening of the current Stability and Growth Pact rules. William Todts from Transport and Environment warned that including road transport under the EU Emissions Trading System would risk watering down existing tools to cut pollution from cars while doing nothing to help the climate. 

What about the final NECPs?

Member states were supposed to submit their final national energy and climate plans to the Commission by the end of December. While many missed the deadline, by now most plans have been submitted, though they have not been made available online.

The current plans have of course been drafted with the current EU climate targets in mind, including the overall target of at least 40% of emission reductions by 2030. With the Green Deal and the upcoming climate law, the EU is ramping up its ambition by enshrining the climate neutrality by 2050 target into law and increasing the 2030 target to at least 50%. 

Does this render the final NECPs useless before they’re even public? “Quite the contrary”, said Paula Pinho from the European Commission’s energy directorate. She sees the national energy and climate plans as the perfect tools to see how member states will evolve towards the climate-neutral objective. “The final plans are not the end of the story, this is where the story begins,” she said.

The Commission will publish its final assessment of the plans in June.

Sam Van den plas from Carbon Market Watch concluded the discussion saying that the success of the Green Deal depended on how swiftly and significantly proposed measures lead to near-term climate action. “The NECPs sit at the heart of this debate.”

Have a look at our Twitter feed for full highlights from the event.

Presentations are available here.