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CAN: Member States must set more ambitious targets in their national climate plans

A new report published by the NGOs Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe and ZERO, analyses the final National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP) of 15 EU Member States showing that despite some improvements compared to the draft strategies, the targets set out by national governments are not ambitious enough to catalyse the energy transition required to deliver on the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The report presents an assessment of the final NECPs from 15 Member States, including ten from the Central and Eastern European region, providing a comparison between the draft and the final NECPs and outlining gaps and opportunities to achieve a timely transition.

Higher emission reduction targets are crucial to meet Paris goals

The credibility of the EU’s ambitions to reach climate neutrality by the middle of the century is very much dependent on setting out adequate targets for 2030. However, the report shows that only a few of the analysed countries increased their national climate targets.

Slovakia, for instance, has increased its emission reduction target in the sectors falling outside of the EU emissions trading system (ETS) from 12 per cent to 20 per cent. Similarly, Slovenia has established an increased economy-wide national target of 36 per cent greenhouse gas emission reduction and a non-ETS greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 20 per cent.

Greece’s overall 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction has also increased since the draft version to 42 per cent. Czechia has not increased its targets, but it’s showing higher emission reduction projections for 2030 in the non-ETS sectors compared to the draft NECPs.

However, the report states, that most countries, including Romania, Croatia and Hungary have not improved their non-ETS targets since the draft version, despite having already unambitious targets.

There’s still room for improvment in renewables deployment

Based on the results of the report Czechia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Romania have all increased their contribution to the 2030 EU renewable energy target in their final NECPs. However, only Greece went beyond the recommendations issued by the European Commission.

In countries such as Croatia and Estonia, although the share of renewable energy foreseen in 2030 already went beyond the recommendations issued by the European Commission in the draft NECPs, the contributions could have been even higher as the NECP still leaves room to increase.

The report raises concerns that potential for wind and solar remains untapped for Czechia, Hungary, Slovenia. While it also warns about the unsustainable supply of biomass and the lack of specific measures to ensure sustainability for biomass supply in the case of Czechia, Estonia, Hungary and Romania.

Energy Efficiency targets diverge

Ambitions regarding increased energy efficiency vary across Member States. The report once again highlights Greece as a good example, with its projected 2030 primary energy consumption both below the 2017 levels and its 2020 target. The same goes for Slovenia regarding its final energy consumption, while Romania, Latvia and Slovakia have also improved their contribution to the EU 2030 energy efficiency target.

On the other hand, Bulgaria’s final NECP includes a national energy efficiency contribution in terms of final energy that has a lower level of ambition than the one previously presented. The report also notes that in Hungary, the foreseen energy consumption for 2030 both in terms of primary and final energy is still above both their national 2020 target and their 2017 levels.

Fossil fuel subsidies persist

CAN underlines that the final NECPs assessed in its report have seen hardly any progress on measures to reduce and phase out fossil fuel subsidies, which is essential for ensuring policy coherence when it comes to achieving climate goals.

The analysis notes that some countries do not even recognise the issue of fossil fuel subsidies and continue to provide support for national fossil fuel projects. The Polish NECP states that the coal industry will continue to be subsidised, with projections indicating a share of coal of over 50 per cent in electricity production in 2050.

Regarding the coal phase-out, although a number of countries, like Greece, Hungary, Slovakia, had already put forward plans to end coal use in their power sector by 2030, others such as Poland, Bulgaria, Czechia, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia plan to burn coal beyond 2030.

Shutting down coal and lignite production requires strategies for substitution, and many countries consider natural gas as a bridging fuel. The report warns that in the wake of coal phase-out, gas is expected to step in to replace a significant share of energy production.

In Greece for instance out of the 9.1 ΤWh of lignite based electricity that will be phased out, 8 TWh will be replaced by fossil gas. But Romania also risks carbon lock-in, by considering natural gas to as a transition fuel to a decarbonised energy industry.

The outcomes of the analysis show that the improvements made in the NECPs are not enough to catalyse the required energy transition and pave the way for a climate-neutral economy.

In the next months, the European Commission is expected to present its assessment on the final NECPs. Based on the results of the report CAN urges the Commission to issue new recommendations and continue pushing Member States to increase their ambition as these plans will play a crucial role by setting the frame for the green recovery of Europe.

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