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Net zero risk in European climate planning: A snapshot of the transparency and internal consistency of Member States' NECPs

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Simon Lalieu • Julien Pestiaux • Markus Hagemann • Sarah Jackson • Adrien Lefebvre • Aleksander Śniegocki • Aneta Stefańczyk

A new cross-sector analysis of draft National Energy and Climate Plans reveals significant risks of inadequate infrastructure, resource shortages and failure to meet 2030 climate targets. The report focuses on renewable electricity, hydrogen, land, bioenergy and the geological storage of carbon dioxide. It assesses the completeness, consistency and quality of information on those sectors within the draft NECPs from Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. 

Why NECPs matter

A climate neutral economy will not come about by chance. The pathways consistent with well-below two degrees require decisive action during this decade. Consistent and transparent planning, with a clear eye to intermediate targets, will be needed. National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) represent an opportunity for EU Member States to chart their next steps on the road to a net-zero economy by 2050. 

Clear and robust NECPs are one of the key tools available: done well, they should provide detailed information on how climate and energy targets will be implemented, with an integrated and considered view of how steps taken in different sectors will interact. They are also a powerful way to reinforce the collaboration and coordinated action across Member States if sufficient focus is set on the coherence across countries. 

Member States must finalise their NECPs by June 2024. Several good practice examples exist around the EU, at least on particular aspects of the NECPs, and should serve as inspiration. This report aims to share the strengths and weaknesses on the consistency of the draft plans of a few Member States and therewith aid all of them to deliver robust plans in their final versions.

The scope of this report: uncovering inconsistencies

This report offers an analysis of five Member State draft NECPs and assesses them according to transparency and internal consistency

The documents are assessed regarding four key cross-sector themes in order to both help directly improve the NECPs, and to inform and strengthen European climate planning at large as regards the use of limited, cross-sector resources: renewable electricity and renewable hydrogen, land uses, bioenergy and long-term geological storage of CO₂

This enables national administrations to improve the draft NECPs for their final version, shining a light on the areas where these current drafts lack coherence and clarity. The report does not evaluate the likely effectiveness of the presented policies, nor the quality and inclusiveness of the drafting process. Rather, it highlights ‘planning risk’ areas in the draft plans with the aim of helping to ensure that Europe stays within the available pathways to timely climate neutrality, in this crucial decade of climate action.

Lack of information on planning

The report identifies major planning shortfalls in the key areas of renewable electricity, hydrogen, land use, bioenergy and the geological storage of carbon dioxide, with crucial information missing for how countries intend to reach 2030 emissions reduction targets in National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs).

Deep dives on specific areas

Major risks were identified in renewable electricity, renewable hydrogen, land use, bioenergy and the geological storage of carbon dioxide. A lack of clarity on credible import strategies and adequate infrastructure planning means that countries risk competition for vital resources as demand outstrips supply, and missing out on economic growth opportunities.

 

Final submission in June 2024

With final NECPs due for submission in June 2024, ECNO is calling on Member States to improve the quality and consistency of their plans to ensure targets are met in this critical decade of climate action.

New composed images NECP Report

European countries are at high risk of missing their climate neutrality targets due to poor and vague national plans

A new report released today assesses the quality of information and the consistency of draft national energy and climate plans (NECPs) submitted to the EU by five Member States in June 2023, including Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. These plans were selected for analysis for giving a view of the largest economies across the geographic spread of the European Union, where plans were available.

Getting onto a climate neutral pathway in this critical decade of action requires coherent and integrated cross-sectoral planning for the near term, avoiding blind overreliance on limited resources, or bottlenecks with regards to critical infrastructure.

Julien Pestiaux, Lead Author 

The plans are supposed to lay out how countries intend to meet the EU energy and climate targets for 2030.

Transparency gaps of analysed Member States' plans

Focusing in particular on renewable electricity, renewable hydrogen, land use, bioenergy and the geological storage of carbon dioxide, ECNO’s report finds that the 

“analysed plans all fall short on policy detail and transparency”.

The report flags major shortfalls in the quality of information included in the plans, and warns that inconsistencies within and between the different plans present major risks to the EU’s ability to meet its climate neutrality targets.

The combined shortfall across all five countries on transparently planned emissions reductions analysed will be 101 MtCO2e (million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) per year by 2030. This is more than Austria’s net annual emissions in 2021.

Emissions industry

Italy has the greatest transparency gap, with detailed planning lacking for emissions reductions of 44 million MtCO2e missing, while Sweden’s planning gap is the lowest, applying to only 11 million MtCO2e.

ECNO challenges the credibility of Sweden’s plans, which have poor quality of information. The plans have not been updated since 2019 submissions under the prior administration, with the current government now considering scrapping its climate targets.

Explanation: Transparency gap calculations

"Considering the next round of plans isn’t due for another five years, we need to get it right this time around. Good planning will be the bedrock of a smooth and successful transition that enables everyone to reap the economic and social benefits that climate neutrality can bring."

Aneta Stefanczyk, contributing author to the report and Public Policy Analyst at Reform Institute

Forest

A spotlight on renewable electricity, renewable hydrogen, land use, bioenergy and the geological storage of carbon dioxide

There is a lack of acknowledgement and planning based on the interdependencies between renewable energy demand and the scaling up of hydrogen. This brings a risk that insufficient renewable electricity will be available to produce enough hydrogen to meet demand, and that fossil-based alternatives will end up being used to make up for supply gaps.

The trade-offs between the services that are expected to be provided from different land uses, and how land will be managed or restored in the coming years, are barely integrated in most plans. This carries a risk of increased competition for land, which could jeopardise future decarbonization efforts, or hamper land from delivering services to society.

The lack of detail on quantified domestic production targets for bioenergy, or detail on inputs, infrastructure development and funding, implies either failure to meet targets or reliance on imports, which is not detailed in most NECPs. This carries the risk of driving deforestation abroad, and putting bioenergy in competition with other land uses, including food production and natural carbon dioxide sequestration from forests or grasslands.

A lack of distinction in some NECPs between Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Carbon Capture Utilisation (CCU) leads to planning inconsistencies and uncertain climate outcomes, as utilisation implies storage only in the short- to medium- term, as opposed to the emissions reductions provided by long-term geological storage (LTGS) of CO2.

Renewable electricity and hydrogen

The quality of information for renewable electricity is generally high, but there is a lack of joined-up planning taking into account the interdependencies between renewable energy demand and the scaling up of hydrogen. This brings a risk that insufficient renewable electricity will be available to produce enough hydrogen to meet demand, and that fossil-based alternatives end up being used to make up for supply gaps, jeopardising emission reductions unless plans are strengthened.

Land uses

All country plans suggest that land is expected to provide an increasing range and volume of services across sectors as part of the climate transition, such as carbon sequestration and providing biomass, the restoration of forests, wetlands and grasslands, alongside settled areas and land used for human and livestock food production. 

Bioenergy

Countries have detailed their bioenergy consumption plans, suggesting this will be an important pillar of the climate transition, but there is much less clarity about where the supply will come from to meet this growing demand. 

Long-term geological storage (LTGS) of CO2

A lack of distinction in some NECPs between Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) and Carbon Capture Utilisation (CCU) leads to planning inconsistencies and uncertain climate outcomes, as utilisation implies storage only in the short- to medium- term, as opposed to the emissions reductions provided by long-term geological storage (LTGS) of CO2. This inconsistency carries a risk of shortfalls in storage infrastructure. 

Country Insights

Italy

  • Italy has the greatest transparency gap, with detailed planning lacking for emissions reductions of 44 million MtCO2e missing.
  • There is a high risk of land overlap, with four times more indicators predicting a land use increase than indicators predicting a land us decrease. 
  • The Italian NECP relies heavily on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology to stabilise emissions in the industrial sector. Alternative decarbonisation measures for the industry are not clearly stated, implying that CCS may be deployed not only to reduce inherent process emissions but also avoidable combustion emissions, which constitutes a risk of locking in fossil fuel dependency.

 

Italy
Spain

Spain

  • The Spanish draft NECP provides the most detailed and thorough information regarding land management and land use change by 2030
  • Many measures and actions are described to prevent forest fires and to maximise carbon sequestration. Reforestation and wetland restoration include quantitative targets.

 

Netherlands

  • The Netherlands project a production of 2 billion cubic meters of biogas, which is not expected to fulfil future demand. Imports are therefore planned, but neither quantified, nor anticipated in terms of infrastructure development or partnerships.

 

Netherlands
Sweden

Sweden

  • Sweden’s planning gap is the lowest, applying to only 11 million MtCO2e.
  • Sweden has one of the highest risk of land overlap, with four times more indicators predicting a land use increase than indicators predicting a land us decrease. 
  • ECNO challenges the credibility of Sweden’s plans, which have poor quality of information. The plans have not been updated since the 2019 submissions under the prior administration, with the current government now considering scrapping its climate targets. 

 

Hungary

  • The estimates of projected domestic hydrogen production are less than half of the anticipated demand in 2030 of more than 4 TWh, leaving a substantial gap potentially to be filled with imports, however the NECP does not provide sufficient information on the sourcing of the imports and limited clarity on the required infrastructure.
  • Hungary plans on increasing the use of first-generation biofuels which poses a major risk, as increasing the reliance on energy crops puts it in potential competition with food production and sovereignty.
Hungary

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