Central and Eastern European Countries Face Scrutiny Over Climate Goals

Central and Eastern European countries are receiving heightened attention for the progress of their ambitions and the development of their National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), raising concerns about their capacity to fulfill EU climate objectives.

A study by the CEE BankWatch Network, a non-governmental organisation focused on monitoring the environmental and developmental impacts of international financial institutions in Central and Eastern Europe, reveals that many Eastern European countries have not taken NECP progress reports seriously, leading to a sluggish shift away from fossil fuels and a lack of commitment to decarbonisation.

NECPs are a vital component of the EU’s climate policy framework, detailing each member state’s strategy to achieve collective climate goals. The CEE BankWatch Network’s report indicates that only Spain, Croatia, and Slovenia have submitted their updated national energy and climate plans before the EU’s deadline. However, concerns have been raised particularly about Central and Eastern European countries’ lack of ambition and the progress of their climate objectives, emphasising that they are falling short of EU expectations.

Several Eastern European countries have been slow to transition away from fossil fuels, choosing to support gas and coal consumption instead of renewable energies. This trend is particularly noticeable in Central and Eastern Europe, where measures to slow down the transition away from fossil fuels have been observed. These actions contradict previous commitments and jeopardize the region’s ability to effectively decarbonise its economy.

The European Court of Auditors has also expressed concerns about EU countries’ vague decarbonisation plans and their potential for them to fail collective climate objectives. The CEE BankWatch Network warns that the NECP process could become a mere “box-ticking exercise” for Eastern EU member states. Insufficient actions and lack of progress suggest that meeting the 2030 Green Deal targets will be challenging for these countries.

Despite the significant potential for renewable energy in the region, Central and Eastern European countries have neglected its deployment. The absence of significant announcements that prioritise expanding renewable energy sources is a prominent issue. This lack of tangible action, coupled with the failure to update climate targets in most countries, is obstructing the growth of crucial renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. These sources have the potential to play a pivotal role in shifting to sustainable energy systems. Industry associations and think tanks stress the need for increased wind energy deployment to meet the EU’s new renewables target.

The CEE BankWatch report also highlights the lack of transparency and civil society engagement in the NECP drafting process. Most negotiations occur behind closed doors, limiting opportunities for public consultations and meaningful engagement. The involvement of relevant stakeholders and public participation in the NECP update is essential to ensure buy-in for the measures and promote a fair and sustainable transition.

Experts say that a green transition holds significant benefits for the region, including enhanced energy security, reduced price volatility, improved access to EU funds, and strengthened value chains. However, these benefits can only be realised if the transition is properly executed. It’s essential for member states to fully leverage EU funds to ensure the success and sustainability of the green transition.

Central and Eastern European countries must respond to the growing criticism and take urgent actions to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and embrace sustainable practices. Stronger commitments and increased ambition are needed to align themselves with the ambitious climate targets set by the EU. By collaborating and captialising on the benefits of a green transition, these countries can secure a sustainable future for their citizens and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change.