On 26 May, polls in the European elections closed and the results reveal an incoming European parliament will be the most fragmented in a number of years. Although the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) are still set to be the largest parties in parliament, their long-held controlling majority has been taken away as European voters turned to alternatives parties including the greens and the far right.
ALDE, a liberal group is forecast to be the third largest block in Parliament while strong support for the greens, particularly in Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and the UK demonstrates that European voters went politicians to take action on climate change.
These results are likely to have a significant impact on the climate policy direction of Europe. Both ALDE and the S&D support the vision of a net zero economy by 2050 and are in favour of the EU raising its greenhouse gas reduction target to 55 per cent by 2030. Combined with the greens, these parties will have a big influence on the European parliament but will have to build consensus with newly elected MEPs representing the far-right and anti-EU parties.
The headline issue for the new MEPs and the new President of the Commission will be when Europe should set the deadline to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions. In November 2018, the Commission published a draft strategy outlining their vision of a net-zero greenhouse gas economy in 2050. This strategy is now being debated by both the EU Council and the EU Parliament with a final decision on the strategy expected by October 2019, enabling final submission to the UN before the next COP meeting in Chile.
With so many MEPs elected under the so called ‘green wave’, politicians are under pressure to show they are listening to voters by setting a strong decarbonisation target.
WorldGBC’s response to this strategy can be found here.
Draft NECPs published on European Commission website
The European Commission has published a draft of the integrated national energy and climate plans (NECPs) that Member States are required to submit by 31 December 2019. This requirement forms part of the governance of the energy union and climate action rules, which entered into force on 24 December 2018.
The NECPs must cover the five dimensions of the energy union for the period 2021 to 2030 (and every subsequent ten-year period). Member States must also report on the progress they make in implementing their NECPs, on a biennial basis. The Commission will monitor the progress of the EU as a whole as part of the annual state of the energy union report.
The Commission is now analysing the draft NECPs and will issue recommendations to Member States to amend their draft NECPs by 30 June 2019. In the meantime, a report from Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe has found that the draft NECPs do not demonstrate high ambition on energy savings and renewable energy and will not help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. The study calls for the Commission to make “firm recommendations” for improvements to the NECPs by December 2019.
EU on track for 50% emissions cuts by 2030
On 26 March, a report published by the climate think tank, Sandbag suggested that the EU is on track for emissions cuts of at least 50% under a business as usual scenario if recent pledges to phase out coal use are taken into account. The findings come at a time when some countries continue to oppose calls to raise the EU’s emissions reduction target to 40% by 2030.
The EU recognises that the 40% target, agreed in 2014, is out of date and unlikely to help deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement. Acknowledging this, the Commission conducted their own analysis last June which suggested that new laws on renewables and energy efficiency would lead to cuts of about 45%.
Achieving these cuts requires a strengthening of the EU’s plan to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This requires unanimous approval from Member States, which is not forthcoming from some Central and Eastern European countries.
However, it is understood the Commission are hopeful that final approval for a more ambitious target may be within sight in order to increase the chances of the EU 2050 strategy getting approval.
EU energy label rules for appliances and products adopted
The European Commission has adopted new rules that aim to make home appliances more reliable and enable consumers to choose products that represent better value for money and the environment.
The new energy labels will appear in shops from March 2021 and will initially apply to TVs, fridges and freezers, washing machines and dryers, dishwashers and lighting products. Key improvements introduced include:
Removing the A+, A++ and A+++ and reintroducing the original A-G scale so that it is easier for consumers to identify truly efficient products
Display of energy efficiency class on promotional materials, including television and online ads
An EU-wide database to register product information, enabling authorities to verify that products comply with energy efficiency requirements
The adoption of these rules is part of a wider package of measures approved by EU Member States in January 2019 in the context of the EU’s Energy Labelling Regulation and Ecodesign Directive.
Coalition for Energy Savings publishes recommendations on how to fulfil the EU’s annual energy savings requirement
The Coalition for Energy Savings has published a report providing recommendations for Member States planning to fulfil their annual energy savings obligations post 2020, following the update to the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED).
Article 7 of the EED requires Member States to develop an energy efficiency obligation scheme which requires energy companies to achieve yearly energy savings of 1.5% of annual sales to final consumers. Companies reach this target by helping consumers improve their energy efficiency via the installation of measures such as double glazing, improved heating systems, or better insulation.
Under the revised EED, the minimum amount of energy savings set out in Article 7 increases after 2020. This revision aims to boost the energy efficiency markets and help reach the EU’s 2030 energy efficiency target. Member States must indicate in their integrated national energy and climate plans (NECPs) how their policies and measures add up to meeting the energy savings requirement set out by Article 7.
The recommendations provide analysis of the new provisions within Article 7, as well as recommendations on how to put in place policies and measures that maximise benefits for both citizens and companies. The recommendations can be downloaded from the Coalition’s website.
Trends report on digital construction, BIM and circular economy published by the European Construction Sector Observatory
The European Construction Sector Observatory has published three key trend reports that analyse and describe the main trends in the construction sector. The three reports focus on specifically on digital tools/innovation, Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the role of the sector in the circular economy.
The report on ‘Integrating digital innovations in the construction sector’ specifically focuses on the policies and initiatives to foster the implementation of two of the most promising digital innovations in the construction sector: 3D printing and drones. The study identifies challenges around their adoption and draws recommendations for EU policymakers on how to support and foster the adoption of drones and 3D printing by construction companies.
The report ‘Building information modelling in the EU construction sector’ analyses the drivers, opportunities, and challenges around the implementation of BIM in the EU. The report draws recommendations for EU policymakers and other relevant actors on how to support and foster the adoption of BIM by the construction industry.
Lastly, the report ‘EU construction sector: in transition towards a circular economy’ provides an overview of the transition towards a circular economy in the EU construction sector with a focus on Construction and Demolition Waste (CDW). The paper highlights the challenges and opportunities in the management of CDW and concludes by highlighting a set of recommendations.
Ireland calls for policies enabling net-zero by 2050
In Ireland, a cross-party parliamentary group has published a series of recommendations calling for carbon budgets, a higher tax, and green agriculture in an effort to cut Ireland’s emissions to net-zero by 2050.
The recommendations would set legally-binding limits every five years and increase the carbon tax, whilst providing strong support for green jobs and agriculture. Although the government will ultimately decide on what recommendations to put into place, the responsible minister, Richard Bruton, has said he intends to set climate targets across all government departments.
The United Kingdom plans to end fossil fuel heating systems in new houses from 2025
Following a report from the Committee on Climate Change, in the 2019 Spring Statement, the UK Government announced plans to end fossil fuel heating systems in new houses from 2025. The government will introduce a Future Homes Standard by 2025 so that new build homes are future-proofed with low-carbon heating and highly ambitious levels of energy efficiency.
Following this, in June the UK Prime Minister announced that the UK was to set a legally binding target to reach net zero carbon by 2050.
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