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EU countries must use NECP revisions to address climate target “planning gap”

September 13, 2023

BRUSSELS — Clean Air Task Force (CATF), a global nonprofit organisation, has released a new report calling on European Union Member States to maximise the short- and medium-term planning potential of their National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP) in Europe. This report is released after the putative deadline has passed with just four out of 27 Member States submitting revisions. 

The report “Bridging the Planning Gap: Transforming European NECPs to Deliver on Climate Targets” identifies opportunities for NECP updates to address rapid changes in the European climate policy landscape as well as the new geopolitical reality facing the continent. 

“European Member States ambition a net-zero future but have not yet laid out an actionable roadmap to bridge the technology, policy, and implementation gaps between the Europe of today and the Europe of 2050,” said Alejandra Muñoz Castañer,  Government Affairs Manager, Europe at CATF. “NECPs from Member States must match this long-term vision with near-term planning to accelerate climate action in Europe. By adopting a comprehensive and coordinated planning approach, policymakers can effectively address the risks associated with the energy transition and achieve a sustainable future.” 

A plethora of bloc-wide targets have been established for both 2030 and 2050 through the EU Green Deal and Fit For 55, but too little is being done to ensure that actions taken to achieve near-term targets lay the groundwork to achieve future goals. And despite this raft of new policies and ambitious targets, the European Union is still not on track to achieve its climate targets, as detailed by the European Climate Neutrality Observatory in June. CATF’s new report finds that without coordinated, comprehensive, and technology optionality-focused planning — accompanied by enhanced accountability and tracking mechanisms — 2030 plans will fail to align with the EU’s 2050 targets. 

To address this “planning gap,” Member States should use NECP revisions to enable better alignment between 2030 and 2050 objectives. This will facilitate a coordinated and options-based strategy for Europe, mitigating risks that are currently omitted from European climate policy.  

“Effective climate and energy plans have to come with in-built opportunities for learning, evaluation and adjustment,” said Nicole Pavia, Program Manager, Clean Energy Infrastructure Deployment at CATF. “The market for clean technologies will evolve from both an investment and labour standpoint as deployment ramps up. Policymakers cannot underestimate the impact of this evolution on their planning.” 

CATF’s report presents a range of recommendations for policymakers when updating their NECPs, including: 

  1. Bridging the Planning Gap: The revised NECPs should be reconfigured to address the gap between short term 2030 targets and the EU’s legally binding 2050 climate neutrality target. This vision should provide a robust roadmap outlining the necessary steps, available funding and investments required to achieve this ambitious goal.  
  1. Coordinated Action: Europe should acknowledge that a one-size-fits-all approach will not deliver. While Member States should incorporate into NECPs options-based technologies and policies that deliver emissions reductions quickly and support social and economic goals in their national contexts, revised NECPs must also encourage coordinated action among Member States cross-border planning opportunities, ensuring that individual 2030 goals contribute to EU-wide 2050 targets. This will enhance synergies and efficiency in the energy transition. 
  1. Risk Mitigation: Multiple technology options are needed to mitigate the risk of unique pathways and increase the region’s resilience to address unexpected developments and events while delivering on energy and climate targets. Member States open to emerging technologies, such as superhot rock geothermal and advanced nuclear energy, should consider them in their NECPs to fast-track decarbonisation and improve energy security. 
  1. Enabling Implementation: With improved methods to track progress and more regular check-ins and evaluations overseen by the European Commission, Member States will be able to gauge the effectiveness of their actions and identify areas for improvement in the overall NECP process, allowing them the opportunity to adjust plans, share learning, and adjust deployment realities to new market and geopolitical circumstances as they arise. 

Europe is currently in a situation where its detailed plans for 2030 are out of step with geopolitical and geoeconomic realities, not to mention real-world emissions reductions. Even worse, the path from those 2030 targets to EU-wide climate neutrality in 2050 is barely sketched out. Used to their full potential, the NECPs could address this, as interim plans that ensure Member States achieve 2030 targets while also preparing for full decarbonisation by 2050.  

CATF calls upon policymakers, stakeholders, and Member States to consider the recommendations outlined in the report and undertake the necessary reforms to transform NECPs into effective planning, coordination, and implementation tools to efficiently guide climate action across the continent. By bridging the planning gap and adopting a holistic approach, Europe can accelerate its transition to a low-carbon, energy-secure and sustainable future. 

Press Contact  

Rowan Emslie, Communications Director, EU, [email protected], +32 476-97-36-42  

About Clean Air Task Force  

Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world.

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