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The risk of a "two-speed" Green Deal in Europe and how to avoid it

Mathieu Delatte Ben Kemoume, 14 February 2022

[English] [français]

A group of European organisations warn in a press release about the lack of leadership of the Member States in the implementation of the European Green Deal objectives.

In particular, they criticise an overly vertical approach to the Green Deal, where decisions taken at EU level are not really integrated by the Member States. "Further expansion of carbon pricing without also setting some minimum standard of national climate governance indicates European Commission distrust in national leadership. Establishing a Social Climate Fund will not be enough to avoid a public backlash over the EU’s climate mandate and policies. This could energise opponents and destabilise political leadership just as it needs to ramp up."

Indeed, European climate governance is a complex mix of the European and national levels, where the initiative actually belongs to the Member States. Only the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR, or Climate Action Regulation (CARE)) proposed by the European Commission sets binding targets for each Member State. However, this initiative suffers from several flaws; the targets set are very short-term and are not really evaluated.

The ESR is also complemented by the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action (or Governance regulation, a planning and monitoring mechanism for the implementation of European environmental policy), which suffers from the same lack of monitoring and yet is not subject to any review as a result.
Maintaining this situation could have several consequences. The transition would be two-speed, slowed down and inefficient overall. All of this would discredit the European Union in its ambition to be a climate leader.

These failures pose a triple risk to the whole European Green Deal:

- Running a significant risk of two-speed transition, with some countries left behind, potentially forever.

- Slowing down the transition due to policy and political inconsistency, damaging the EU’s credibility as a global climate leader as this decade advances.

- Paying the bitter price of inaction. Any agreement at the EU level will soon become irrelevant if a timely and effective national implementation does not follow everywhere.

To remedy this problem, the signatories propose to strengthen the existing monitoring mechanisms and to level-up the minimum standards of national climate governance. This should include a revision of the ESR / CARE to adapt existing policies not to achieve the 55% reduction by 2030, but to achieve climate neutrality. In parallel, the Governance Regulation should be amended to take account of this ambition.

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