The EU is at risk of not meeting the conditions of its European Green Deal, according to the European Climate Neutrality Observatory (ECNO). The ECNO is focused on aiding the EU and ensuring that the European Commission stays on track to achieve the goals of the European Green Deal. This includes becoming climate neutral by 2050.
The European Green Deal: status quo
The European Green Deal outlines 9 areas in which climate action will be taken to meet the climate objectives, for example agriculture, transport, and research and innovation. The EU has dedicated initiatives within these categories e.g., the 2030 Climate Target Plan in the climate category, in which the EU is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030.
The ECNO report
The ECNO, is an association of European research organisations, with a broad range of experts spanning climate policy, governance, economics, and finance. Its purpose is to establish better strategies of monitoring and encourage transparency regarding the EU’s actions for greater progress towards its goal. It’s first report ‘State of EU Progress to Climate Neutrality’, identifies the progress of the EU Green Deal, whilst recognising specific shortcomings and suggesting corrections. For this report, the ECNO’s observation involved comparing the changes of 100 economic and social indicators to EU benchmarks, to realistically assess what the rate of progress is towards the EU’s Green Deal.
The ECNO’s report comes ahead of the European Commission conducting the first assessment of progress to climate neutrality this September. The next assessment will be in 2028. The report expressed the concern that the frequency of these assessments would not be sufficient to monitor the EU’s objectives. Alongside this administrative concern, 4 concerns arose based on the implementation of the EUs climate plans:
- Transition to renewable energy: The ECNO highlighted in their report that the EU needs to invest more in renewable energy. The EU spent €46.2 billion subsidising fossil fuels in 2020, a figure which increased the following 2 years. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated the effect of the EU’s continued over-investment in fossil fuels, by inflating fuel prices. The ECNO stated that the future reduction of emissions is being impaired by the lack of climate investment today.
- Just Transition initiative: The European Commission proposed the Just Transition initiative to support the EU citizens who are most vulnerable to the transition to climate neutral practices, to ensure that they do not lose their livelihoods. In the ECNOs report, the 3.7% increase in employment in the environmental goods and services sector between 2015 and 2020 and the 1.3% increase in the renewable energy resources sector between 2016 and 2021 was deemed insufficient. The initiative requires higher levels of green investment to account for the jobs that will be lost in the fossil fuel industry, with jobs in the green energy sector.
- Electricity Supply: Digitalisation of industries is increasing the demand for electricity around the world. The ECNO reported progress in reducing the overall greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation. However, fossil fuel powered generation of electricity specifically saw an annual decrease of 1.3% between 2016 and 2021, but the ECNO report outlines an annual decrease of 2.5% is required. Renewable energy production grew at a rate of 1.5% from 2016 to 2021 but needs to more than double to 3.2%. The ECNO warns the transition to renewable energy is not going quickly enough.
- Buildings: The EU outlined the target of reducing 60% of emissions by 2030 in the buildings sector in comparison to 2015. The ECNO reports that at its’ current rate, emissions would have to reduce 7.5 times faster through doubling the pace of energy-efficient renovations. The ECNO corroborated the European Commission targeting the sector’s high emission levels, but further stated for the planned phase-out of fossil fuels by 2040, the share of renewable energy going into heating and cooling needs to increase by 6.8 times.
Achieving climate neutrality worldwide
As a pioneer of climate neutrality, the European Green Deal is incredibly important and the newly launched ECNO furthers the EU’s hope for climate-neutral lifestyles to become the standard. ‘The climate crisis calls for a big picture, joined-up approach to ensure we’re not only meeting our short-term emissions targets but also laying the groundwork to remain on track in coming decades,’ stated Aleksander Sniegocki, an ECNO consortium member and co-author of the report.
The first continent-wide effort for climate neutrality in the world, the EU is setting the precedent for long-term sustainable practices as a viable and effective alternative to the environmentally damaging practices observed worldwide. Initiatives such as Climate Neutral Now, set up by the UN, have been aiding businesses to reduce the effects of their carbon footprint by becoming climate neutral, but the EU’s aim to become climate neutral within the next 30 years puts higher pressure, not just on organisations, but on entire nations to pay attention and work harder against climate change. Therefore, it is vital that the EU does not fall short of its goal.