EU 2030 climate package: a reason for complaint?

EU 2030 climate package: a reason for complaint?

The EU policy framework for climate and energy for 2020 to 2030 revealed at the end of January has soon become the subject of heated debate. A recent contribution to the debate about the proposal was a public discussion organised in Brussels in the second week of February by The Centre - Edelman Brussels’ forum. The climate package was there assessed by the think tank Climate Strategies and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations. Analyses followed by an exchange with the representative of the European Commission’s DG Climate, highlighted various aspects of the proposal, its positive elements, as well as deficiencies and challenges.

In its overall assessment the package has been valued as ‘a positive step in difficult times.’ From its content the particular attention deserves, according to the presented analyses: acknowledgment of differences among EU Member States, the fact that it is a ‘finely balanced package’, as well as the package being ‘an innovative bridge between top down and bottom up approach.’

Underlining the diversity among the Member States and already existing efforts to address climate change at least in some of EU key Member States, the role of the EU package has been seen in demonstrating support for existing national transformation strategies and maintaining the EU as the global leader in the fight against climate change. At the same time it was stated that there are still large differences between the Member States in regard to their efforts, their respective climate and energy policies, and the amount of investments which the transition to a low carbon economy will require from each Member State.

As one of the substantial challenges for the EU was identified fact that the transition to low carbon economy will engender much higher costs for poorer EU Member States than for more developed and richer ones. Effort sharing mechanisms therefore need to be a substantial element of the EU proposal requiring much more clarification than available at the moment. Concerns about costs of energy and threats to energy poverty in some of parts of the EU, as well as the question of compensation of transition costs for poor households must not be underestimated.

It was interesting to observe how much attention in the debate was given to the issue of solidarity, which constitutes an important component of the document. From the faith based perspective it is worth to note that emphasis was put on the discernment, formulated by one of the participants of the discussion, that ‘solidarity should not be based only on GDP criteria.’

As expected, the discussion also raised the topic which for many civil society stakeholders is the most substantial challenge associated with the package: Is the package ambitious enough? The answer provided by the seminar was not as straightforward as one would expect. On the one hand it was re-iterated by several actors that the package lacks ambition in some of its key proposals especially in the fields of energy use and energy efficiency.

The ‘package is weak,’ in particular in some of its elements, has been echoed at the meeting by several voices, however in current circumstances ‘presents probably the only possibility of what can be discussed, without killing the debate before its start.’

The discussion indicated a slight, nevertheless already noticeable shift of the focus in the public debate: away from placing the level of ambition of the presented targets at the centre of attention to questions of impact assessment, various aspects of climate governance, effort sharing mechanisms and avoidance of energy poverty.

The discussion offered helpful insights into the complex topic of climate policies and showed the complexity of climate and energy issues, which will have to be addressed.

The package is going to be discussed at the European Council meeting in March.

Peter Pavlovic