Upcoming EU Summit Setting Strategic Agenda for 2019-2024: CEE Countries Must Support Ambitious Timeframes for Environmental Goals | WWF
Upcoming EU Summit Setting Strategic Agenda for 2019-2024: CEE Countries Must Support Ambitious Timeframes for Environmental Goals

Posted on 19 June 2019

CEE leaders have an important opportunity to tip the scales in favour of climate neutrality goals, and for halting and reversing biodiversity loss.
Brussels, 18 June 2019 - EU Heads of State and Governments are meeting on 20-21 June for their first formal exchange of views  following the recent parliamentary elections. The talks concern the overarching priorities which will guide the work of the EU over the next five years (the so-called ‘Strategic Agenda’). Governments will also discuss the draft long-term EU climate strategy and its possible net zero emissions target for 2050. Central and Eastern European (CEE) leaders have an important opportunity to tip the scales in support for clear timeframes for climate neutrality goals, and for halting and reversing biodiversity loss.
 
Decarbonisation Goal
While more Member States have been coming out recently in support of a decarbonisation target (see table here for national positions and explanations on net zero as of 17 June), among Central and Eastern European countries, only Hungary is moving towards a net zero emissions target by 2050.  Bulgaria remains isolated by its strong opposition to bolder objectives, Romania is keeping quiet due to its current EU Council presidency, and Slovakia is assessing its climate decarbonisation scenarios but remains wary of any commitment.
 
Biodiversity Degradation
As CEE has maintained more of its nature compared to other parts of the EU, they could champion the Strategic Agenda discussions and advocate for a clear timeframe for halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. This would certainly be needed, as the key document providing background guidance for the political priorities of the next European Commission and European Parliament remains rather vague, and fails to endorse the globally agreed UN Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) as guiding principles for all EU action. Furthermore, it lacks clear commitments and deadlines for addressing the global environmental urgency.
 
WWF Central and Eastern Europe strongly urges regional Heads of State to advocate for the following improvements to the Strategic Agenda:
  • The EU must also show international leadership in 2020 by leading the world towards the adoption of a global agreement to halt and reverse the loss of nature; and thus help bring about a New Deal for Nature and People;
  • Call for climate neutrality by 2040. It is crucial to specifically state the EU’s climate neutrality deadline;
  • Call for increased targets on both energy savings and renewables;
  • Establish actions to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030. Just as with climate action, we need fixed timelines indicating EU (and global) commitments;
  • Recognise that a strong economic base can only be grounded in a green economy. Public and private investment must be fully aligned to the climate and environmental transition;
  • Recognise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as the umbrella plan to help deliver on the EU’s priorities;
  • Ensure rigorous implementation and enforcement of (environmental) policies. Considering the annual cost of non-implementation of EU environmental legislation to be at least €55 billion, specific attention must be given to this policy domain; especially since this is where tangible impacts can be seen by citizens; and
  • Recognise the role of civil society in delivering on the priorities. Considering the shrinking civic space, the strategic agenda must give an important signal that EU leaders will continue to protect civic space and recognise the public interest role performed by civil society.

The EU summit discussions follow the 18 June release of European Commission recommendations on the integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs),  which show the overall share of renewables in gross final consumption of energy in 2030 to be significantly below the  required national contribution for all CEE countries[1]: 27.9%  in Romania (instead of 34%), 25%  in Bulgaria (27%), 18%  in Slovakia (24%) and 20% in Hungary  (23%). The European Commission also recommends stronger assessments of energy poverty and the need to put measures into place to combat it. Specific measures to ensure sustainability for biomass supply and use in the energy sector could reduce extra pressure on forests in CEE countries.
 
So far, none of the NECPs are in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In some cases, plans also contain a worrying lack of information. For example, some Member States are projecting huge increases in biomass use, but are not saying exactly what they are planning to burn. Consequently, this could have a major impact on emissions. Unclear biomass plans could also mean increased pressure on forests of high conservation value in countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia. Member States have until the end of 2019 to update and improve their plans. The EU summit this week should provide an extra impulse to do so.
 
For more information please contact:
Ana Maria Seman
Regional Policy Lead,
WWF Central and Eastern Europe
aseman@wwfcee.org, Tel: +40726328802

Notes to editors:
NECPs: According to the governance of the energy union and climate action rules, which entered into force on 24 December 2018, EU countries are required to:
  • Develop integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) that cover the five dimensions of the energy union for the period 2021 to 2030 (and every subsequent ten year period) based on a common template;
  • Submit a draft NECP by 31 December 2018 and be ready to submit the final plans by 31 December 2019 to the European Commission; and
  • Report on the progress they make in implementing their NECPs, at least on a biennial basis.
The EU long-term strategy: The 2015 Paris Agreement asked signatories to develop long-term climate strategies. The EU’s draft strategy was published in November 2018. This is now being discussed at EU and Member State level, and should be finalised by 2020. The strategy says that the EU must be climate neutral (zero net greenhouse gas emissions) by 2050 to tackle climate change. To reach that objective, every sector of the economy must be transformed. The strategy shows how Europe can lead the way to climate neutrality by investing in realistic technological solutions, empowering citizens, and aligning action in key areas such as industrial policy, finance, or research – while ensuring social fairness for a just transition.