- More frequent and random monitoring of how countries are complying with their agreed upon goals under the Effort Sharing Regulation by the European Environment Agency
- Stricter policies guiding the EU ETS, which covers emissions from industry
- Do more to help countries in the global south decrease their emissions
- Increase its support for the states in the Western Balkans that are not already part of the EU
The EU has made strong strides lately in committing to tackling the problem of climate change and taking concrete action to reduce its emissions. Its comprehensive European Green Deal and newly reimagined 2030 Climate Target Plan that promises to reduce the EU’s emissions by 55% by 2030, are solid foundations for ensuring that the EU plays its part in reducing climate change. Yet, the EU’s climate change policies still remain heavily focused on decarbonization and suffer from the inability of the EU to enforce the policies it proposes. Moreover, given that the EU produces a relatively small share of the world’s total emissions (8%), there is a need for the implementation of outward looking policies and strategies that ensure emissions are also decreased on a global scale by 50% by 2030.
One step that the EU can take to ensure it reduces its own emissions by 50% by 2030 is to adopt more of a direct approach to climate security as opposed to the more indirect approach it has been taking. Many of the EU’s climate policies are focused on establishing benchmark goals for its member countries that these countries must then come up with the policies to achieve. For example, the EU’s Effort Sharing Regulation, which covers emissions sectors not covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), has specified that the EU must reduce its emissions in these sectors by 30% by 2030.
The EU has outlined emissions reductions that individual Member States must achieve in order to reach a 30% decrease in emissions collectively, but leaves it up to Member States to determine how they will achieve this goal. While giving Member States autonomy in making decisions is not necessarily a negative, this often leads to stalls in Member States agreeing upon sufficient climate policies with the EU and failing to fully implement the changes necessary to achieve the goals they have outlined.
Currently, the European Environment Agency conducts yearly greenhouse gas inventory reports that are then formally shared with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, more frequent and random monitoring of how countries are complying with their agreed upon goals under the Effort Sharing Regulation by the European Environment Agency could be beneficial in ensuring that countries are indeed complying with their promises throughout the year. For example, the European Environment Agency could choose to review the production of greenhouse gases in a sector that has been problematic for a given country and analyze whether the production in that sector is or is not in line with the country’s climate goals. In cases where the sector was still producing more greenhouse gases than had been agreed upon, the emitting country could be asked to redevelop its policies to ensure that sufficient emissions reductions occurred.
The EU should also be stricter in the policies guiding the EU ETS, which covers emissions from industry. Currently, companies producing products that are on a “leakage list” receive free allowances that can be as large as up to 10% of the average emissions from the most efficient installations in the sector that are potentially impacted by the risk of carbon leakage. While positive strides have been made in this area in that increasingly stringent criteria has made it more difficult for products to be included on the list, even more stringent guidelines need to be enforced in the coming years. The EU should continue to decrease the number of products that can be included on this list by creating progressively stricter criteria. Moreover, the EU should phase out the percent of allowances that will be given for these products from 10% to 0%.
Looking outwardly, the EU can also use its newly introduced Global Gateway initiative, which has been proposed in order to act as a countervailing force to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as a means to help countries in the global south decrease their emissions. The EU’s initiative differs from China’s Belt and Road project in that it already has a focus on sustainability and could feasibly be used to reinforce the external dimension of the European Green Deal. As Clark and his fellow authors reflect in their article titled, “Climate of cooperation: How the EU can help deliver a green grand bargain”, through focusing on building partnership-based economic transformation strategies with the global south, and investing in emissions-reducing technologies and strategies in these countries, the EU can aid the global south in reducing emissions. The success of these efforts could easily be measured by agencies like the European Environment Agency or other non-biased environmental organizations, as well as by independent researchers, by measuring the levels of emissions in an area that the investment impacts within a specific partner country before and after the investment was made, and see if it has led to a positive, neutral, or negative impact on emissions.
The EU should also increase its support for the states in the Western Balkans that are not already part of the EU. Due to the close proximity of these states and the close relationship that the EU already shares with them, there are numerous ways in which the EU could support their green transitions. While the EU currently provides these states with some funds for financing, some of which goes towards climate-related projects, the EU could play a larger role in supporting their transitions through including industrial transitions as projects in its financial support for these countries.
The EU could also use some of the funds from its Just Transition Fund to provide green bonds and help to de-risk investments in climate technologies in these states. Since potential accession is also a large motivator for certain states in the Western Balkans that are currently in the accession process, such as Montenegro and Serbia, these countries could be incentivized to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quicker with the promise that if they do, they will be able to accede sooner. Progress of the efforts of these states in reducing greenhouse gas emissions could once again be measured by an agency like the European Environmental Agency.
In sum, through strengthening and implementing a mix of inward and outward-looking measures, the EU can play a stronger role in ensuring that there is a 50% decrease in emissions by 2030.
European Environmental Bureau
Johanna Sandahl, President
Submitted by Climate Scorecard European Union Country Manager Brittany Demogenes
Learn More Sources
Clark, Alex, et al. “Climate of Cooperation: How the EU Can Help Deliver a Green Grand Bargain.” ECFR, 27 Oct. 2021, https://ecfr.eu/publication/climate-of-cooperation-how-the-eu-can-help-deliver-a-green-grand-bargain/#summary.
“Emissions Monitoring & Reporting.” Climate Action, https://ec.europa.eu/clima/eu-action/climate-strategies-targets/progress-made-cutting-emissions/emissions-monitoring-reporting_en.
Mardell, Jacob. “Global Gateway – the European Union’s New Connectivity Strategy.” Merics, 12 Oct. 2021, https://merics.org/en/opinion/global-gateway-european-unions-new-connectivity-strategy.
“Policies & Action.” Policies & Action | Climate Action Tracker, https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/eu/policies-action/.
Youngs, Richard. “The EU’s Indirect and Defensive Approach to Climate Security – the EU and Climate Security: Toward Ecological Diplomacy.” Carnegie Europe, https://carnegieeurope.eu/2021/07/12/eu-s-indirect-and-defensive-approach-to-climate-security-pub-84874.