Climate policy has traditionally focused on this sector and long-term experiences with policies exist. A few countries have long-standing policies. The maximum rating is a ‘C’, however most countries are well below halfway to achieving the goal, with an average rating of ‘E’.
Germany and Denmark have stable support systems for electricity generation from renewable energy. Both have operated feed-in tariffs for over a decade. Policies to support combined heat and power are relatively advanced in Ireland, Germany and Spain. Performance in overarching issues for electricity supply is generally low due to the un-ambitious cap of the electricity sector in the emission trading system; no emission performance standards for new power plants leading to newly built coal fired power plants and widespread subsidies, in addition to tax exemptions for fossil fuels.
Reduced support for renewable electricity, mainly for solar photovoltaic (PV), partly justified
Some countries reduced support for renewable electricity, mainly the support levels for solar photovoltaic (Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Italy, France, Spain, UK, Estonia, Germany and Belgium). The reduction of support levels for solar PV is justifiable given the decrease in production cost and very strong market growth. Still, the support reductions were often implemented as a step change and have reduced future investment certainty. This is especially the case in Spain and the Czech Republic, where the support for solar PV was cut retroactively, either by cutting the tariff or by introducing a tax for existing installations.
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Many sectors and policy areas are covered by a broader set of initiatives, but many of them are not sufficiently ambitious to transform Austria into a low-carbon economy by 2050.
The country's overall performance is dominated by the complex relationship between the Belgian Federal Government and the autonomous regions. While on regional level some ambitious approaches exist, there is an overall lack of harmonisation across the measures, and those issues which require a solution on the national level often lag behind. Apart from renewable energy and combined heat and power (CHP), there are hardly any targets set
An integrated long-term climate policy strategy is necessary to provide clear direction for Bulgaria, but the timeframe of the energy strategy adopted in June 2011 only runs until 2020.
The country has not yet defined both a long-term target to reduce its emissions and a strategy to develop into a low-carbon economy. However, support programmes for renewables in electricity production and buildings are in place. The agricultural and forestry sector are also targeted. In contrast, the important industrial sector is not targeted appropriately. The Czech Republic has relatively good support systems and programmes for renewables in all sectors. However, in the electricity sector, the support is not planned and guaranteed for the long-term. Although an energy tax does exist, it is set at a very low level and therefore does not give sufficient incentive to reduce energy use.
In September 2010, the Danish Climate Commission published their recommendations on how Denmark could be completely independent of fossil fuels - with wind (to provide 80% of electricity by 2050) and biomass as the dominant fossil fuel substitutes combined with heat pumps, electric cars and smart grids. The recommendations also included a target of reducing greenhouse gases by 80%-95% compared with 1990. In February 2011, the Danish Government reinforced the long-term goal to phase out fossil fuels with the release of the proposal for an ‘Energy Strategy 2050’. This proposal aims to reduce fossil fuel use in the heat and power sectors by a third in 2020 (compared to 2009) and to promote renewables in addition to those included in Denmark’s EU renewable energy action plan It also announces a more ambitious energy savings for 2020 (6% compared with 4% previously), and a 50% energy efficiency obligation for energy companies to be met by 2013, and a 75% target for 2017-20.
Estonia focuses on the measures needed to meet EU targets and to benefit from Kyoto but does not target more ambitious reductions. Estonian sustainability policies are specifically focused on nature protection and the avoidance of pollutants. A plan to reform ecological taxes by 2012, which explicitly targets external costs, is included in the Development Plan of the Estonian Electricity Sector. The progress of this reform is unclear.
The new government has set new climate objectives, but concrete measures are still quite unclear. The increase in renewable energy production is mostly based on wood energy and this might have negative impacts, for example on biodiversity and the carbon stock of forests and forest soils. Thus, the sustainability of biomass use for liquid biofuels as well as for heat and power and the decrease in the CO2 emissions should be guaranteed.
The overall strategies in the Plan Climat, published in 2010, have a time horizon until 2020, which is relatively short-term. France was the first country to introduce a binding long-term goal of reducing emissions by a factor of four by 2050 through the Grenelle I law in August 2009. The Grenelle II law, published on 12 July 2010, presents the concrete actions needed to reach the defined 2020 targets in six main sectors: buildings and urbanisation, transport, energy and climate, biodiversity, health and governance. It is also supposed to pave the way to reaching the 2050 target of reducing emissions by a factor of four. This law also includes an obligation for private companies with more than 500 employees, public entities of more than 250 employees and cities with more than 50000 inhabitants to measure their carbon footprint (Bilan Carbon).
The government approved the Energy Concept, a strategy for the energy sector until 2050. The strategy sets the goals to reduce CO2 emissions by 80-95% compared to 1990 levels, to increase the share of renewable energy in electricity consumption to 80% and to decrease electricity consumption by 25% until 2050. It is not legally binding and only in some cases includes details on policies to reach these targets.
Although Greece has an official climate strategy, there are no binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050. The main policy development in 2010 was the publication of the National Renewable Energy Action Plan, aligning the targets for the long-term development of renewable energy with the 20-20-20 EU renewables strategy, with the main focus on wind energy. Setting this official commitment was a positive development. However laws and regulations dealing with the economic recovery of the country (e.g. medium-term programme on financial strategy, ‘fast-track’ law, investment law) are downgrading the priority given to green measures and targets.
Hungary has clear and strict laws to protect land, forests and soil. The use of land cannot be changed without prior consent of the respective authority. For forests, the aim is to increase the territory of the forest ecosystem and to maintain or improve its diversity. The concept of environmental and economic sustainability has been strengthened by its inclusion in the constitution.
The new government has committed to developing a Climate Change Bill in the near future. Exact differences from the previous shelved draft are still unknown. The government has begun to explore the potential for domestic offsetting in Ireland. A delay in EU approval for the extended REFIT scheme is causing some renewable projects to not be realised. Other schemes have closed due to budgetary constraints (e.g. ReHeat), while new schemes have been introduced (Biofuel Obligation Scheme).
Italy lacks a comprehensive climate strategy, although public awareness has increased enormously in just a few years. Local initiatives at municipal level provide best practice examples.
Latvia’s climate policy follows individual case-by-case demands rather than being based on a consistent, long-term climate strategy.
Lithuania’s national energy strategy runs until 2025. Currently efforts are being made to improve renewable energy (RES) sector development in Lithuania. The National Strategy for Development of RES was approved in 2010. The new law on renewable energy entered into force in May 2011. Despite the difficult economic situation, the country has put some effort into increasing energy efficiency in the building sector and the share of renewable energies in the country's energy mix.
The country does not have a climate strategy including long-term targets. The second National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) has not yet been sent to the EU Commission. The action plan for CO2 abatement is expected to be presented in its first draft in October 2011.
Malta is the smallest EU country and its area is a limiting factor. However, since its entry into the EU, Malta has made significant efforts to improve the environmental situation.
The Netherlands adopted EU targets. No strategy exists beyond 2020. The new government has announced a green deal with business, but details are not yet known (September 2011).
Although Poland has an energy strategy, it does not look beyond 2030 and the level of ambition is too low. More broadly, a National Programme for the Development of a Low-Carbon Economy is being developed to guide Poland towards a low-carbon economy up to 2050.
Portugal is currently developing its strategy and is undergoing a comprehensive planning process:
The country faces several economic challenges. It is starting to implement energy and climate polices, that are intended to put the country on a pathway towards a low-carbon economy. Several strategies are being implemented (e.g. Energy Certificates system; Agricultural Census; National Afforestation plan up to the year 2035, National Renewable Energy action Plan, National plan for controlling illegal forestry cuts) or will be implemented in the near future (such as the strategic energy measures for the period 2011–2035).
The country faces several economic challenges. An overall strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is needed. Except for the forestry sector, policies are not sufficient and are based on a piecemeal approach. The carbon effects of policy are not prioritised. The efficiency standards in the building and energy sector are low; thus efficiency improvements are economically attractive and substantial reductions in energy use have been achieved.
Significant efforts have been made to improve environmental performance, especially in the building, energy and transport sectors. Agricultural and forestry policy is characterised as being sustainable. Although ambitious policies have increased energy efficiency in households (insulation and heating systems), the rising standard of living has almost overtaken these improvements.
No changes have been made to the Spanish Climate Strategy. The government is currently working on a Renewable Action Plan 2011-2020 (Plan de Energias Renovables – PER). The target share of renewable energy sources of 20.8% in total gross final energy consumption by 2020 is lower than that set by the former action plan (National Renewable Energy Action Plan – NREAP) which targeted a share of 22.7%.
In 2009, Sweden adopted a vision that in 2050 the country will have no net emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. A comprehensive reduction strategy is detailed until 2020 with the target being to reduce Sweden’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by then, compared to 1990 levels. One third of this target is to be achieved outside Sweden’s borders through using flexible mechanisms.
The UK is the only EU country with a legally binding long-term commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. This commitment is supported by innovative carbon budgets set in 5-year increments to ensure that emissions decline from day one. The government is required to set carbon budgets for 5 year periods, as well as a programme that will ensure that the UK's emissions remain within the carbon budget. The Parliament determines the amount of CO2 emission that can be emitted for each carbon budget, as well as the amount of international credits that can be used for offsetting. For the first budget period (2008-2012), the limit for using international credit to offset domestic emissions is zero (except for ETS credits bought by companies that are part of the ETS). The strategy covers all sectors and is supported through further legislation. An independent committee, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) determines how to meet the set target. The government can be summoned by the court (for example at the initiative of non-governmental organisations) when the activities taken to reach the targets of the Climate Change Bill are deemed insufficient and/or when the advice as proposed by the CCC has been ignored.