While a growing number of countries are announcing their 2050 climate neutrality pledges and Contracting Parties of the Western Balkans have already committed to this target by the adoption of the Sofia Declaration, the Green Policy Center finds that concrete long-term plans of action are still to be made.
Its new study entitled Carbon neutrality in the Energy Community – drivers and policy proposals provides recommendations on how to set up long-term strategies to reach a climate-neutral future.
The Paris Agreement has clearly introduced the objective of climate neutrality as a long-term goal of international climate policy. Moreover, since the publication of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C, the expectation is to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of the century in order to mitigate the chances of a catastrophic climate future. In this regard, the already adopted European Climate Law confirms this global trend and declares that the Union will be climate neutral by 2050. At the same time, an increasing number of EU Member States are adopting national climate laws and long-term climate strategies for 2050.
The Green Policy Center has assessed the positive effects and co-benefits of setting up and implementing climate neutrality targets. By setting up such targets, Contracting Parties can access development finance supporting their just transition towards a climate-neutral economy and can potentially also mitigate the effects of the proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) by setting up national or regional carbon pricing systems compatible with the EU ETS.
Furthermore, becoming climate neutral would eliminate the serious air quality problems of the Contracting Parties, eventually saving the lives of tens of thousands of their citizens and also saving costs on their health systems and economies.
Achieving climate neutrality was assessed to have positive effects also on food systems and the environment. Also, by phasing out fossil fuels and their subsidies, financial resources can be used to develop the economies and raise the employment of Contracting Parties as, by embarking on a green and just transition, the Contracting Parties could exploit the positive effects of EU trade even further.
The financial sector is changing its policies and greening its portfolios, therefore financial flows will go more and more towards sustainable investments. These new green financial means and the huge energy efficiency and renewable potential of the Contracting Parties could support the creation of green high-quality jobs and reaching the climate neutrality target.
The study summarises the essential elements of the adopted national climate legislation by elaborating on the following aspects: goals; planning and measures; monitoring and revision; institutional arrangements; policy-science cooperation and public participation.
In terms of the already submitted long-term strategies, the paper carried out the analysis of best practices for the Contracting Parties to be adopted. Finally, the study also presented the lessons learned from country-level case studies.
Among those, also some positive examples from Central and Eastern Europe. For example, to carry out the policy-coordination process in Slovakia an “ad hoc working group on the preparation of a low-carbon strategy” was established, composed of representatives of the state administration as well as representatives of academia and employers’ associations. Also, in setting their targets, most countries are envisaging a reduction expressed in terms of percentage compared to a base year, with the Czech Republic setting absolute targets expressed in terms of Mt CO2-eq.
The Green Policy Center believes that climate neutrality does not mean that Contracting Parties will have to cut their emissions to zero: through the use of carbon sinks, they will only have to cut their emissions to a lower level while by implementing green technologies and environmentally friendly policies they can still achieve economic growth and a just transition to a climate-neutral future.