Key Findings 2011

Regarding EU policy, the report observes that:

  • Close to half of the performance of a member state is directly related to legislation from the EU.
  • Many EU policies assist the member states in formulating ambitious climate policies, with the Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive as prominent examples.
  • Some EU policies that prescribe harmonised rules, such as the Eco-design Directive or the cap on the Emission Trading System, are too weak but also restrictive – the risk inherent in such policy approaches.
  • Some areas important for a path towards a low-carbon economy are not, or only very indirectly, covered by the EU: targets beyond 2020, investments in electricity grids and distribution, redesign of products, energy efficiency in industry, retrofit of existing buildings, freight transport and low-carbon agriculture policy.

In evaluating current policy and plans on the table for the future, we find that:

  • The present EU-level policy package is insufficiently stringent to reach 2050 low-carbon goals, with an estimated average score of ‘E’.
  • EU-level policies on renewables are more stringent than those on energy efficiency.
  • The EU’s new plans, consisting of a roadmap on a low-carbon economy by 2050, a transport white paper and an energy efficiency plan, show significant improvements, but are still insufficient to be in line with a low-carbon economy

At member state level we find that in terms of developments since last year’s report:

  • Nine EU member states have, on balance, made progress, and five have fallen further behind.
  • Overall, current effort remains insufficient to meet a low-carbon vision.
  • The majority of new policy developments in EU member states are either a direct implementation of EU legislation or are linked to EU legislation. This reinforces the message that intensification of policies at the EU-level can have a large impact on countries’ performance.
  • The financial crisis has made its impact felt: although green growth is part of many government plans, real transformation is little in evidence. Cuts in support to alleviate short-term budget gaps have appeared in several countries

Assessment at sectoral level indicates few consistent trends, with changes for the better and the worse in evidence:

  • There has been a standstill in long term strategies. Ireland and the Netherlands took back earlier commitments. Denmark and Germany are the exception to the rule – formulating low-carbon targets towards 2050.
  • In electricity supply, there is reduced support for renewable electricity, mainly for Photovoltaics (PV). This is partly justified given the decrease in production cost and very strong market growth. Still, in Spain and the Czech Republic, support for solar PV was cut retroactively; reducing greatly needed future investment certainty.
  • Industry is still barely tackled by policies.
  • In buildings, there has been a focus on measures to stimulate renovation policy and improved certification of buildings.
  • Transport policies mainly focus on efficiency of existing cars, with premium or labelling systems for new cars in many countries.
  • In forestry and agriculture there are few innovative policies to report.

Overall there are two key recommendations:

  1. EU policy needs significant strengthening to help Europe develop towards a low-carbon economy. The first needed step is significant improvement of the EU’s existing cornerstone policies:
    • Revision of the EU Emissions trading system cap and reduction trajectory to align with 2050 decarbonisation, as well as measures to reduce the current credit oversupply.
    • Introduce a CO2 tax as part of the Energy Tax Directive.
    • Tightening the requirements for CO2 efficiency of passenger cars.
    • Tightening of standards under the Eco-design Directive
    • Guidance to member states on how to encourage retrofit for energy efficiency and renewable energy as part of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

    Second, there is a need for new policies to close existing gaps:

    • Legal agreement on long term targets and strategies beyond 2020
    • A greater ambition for energy savings through 2020.
    • Explicitly targeting the redesign of products, with the objective to make these less material intensive, longer lasting and 100% recyclable.
    • Legislation on freight transport via road, rail or shipping.
    • A long term climate perspective on EU agriculture policy.
  2. Finally, additional action across all sectors in all member states is needed. There is ample scope for member states to learn from each other. To name a few opportunities:
    • Germany put forward bolder nuclear energy phase out plans enabling a positive energy.
    • transition, Italian voters massively rejected a return to nuclear and Denmark began marking out a renewed course of accelerated decarbonisation plans.
    • Austria introduced environmental taxes in transport, and Ireland will double its carbon tax to €30 per tonne by 2014.
    • Finland, Hungary and Latvia further improved their support schemes for renewable energy.
    • The Slovenian government set up programmes to co-finance biomass district heating systems and the UK adopted an innovative feed-in tariff for renewable heat.

In every country in the European Union there is an example of positive action. A wider application of these policies across the EU would result in further greenhouse has GHG emissions reductions. This report seeks to help facilitate such exchanges.