The European Court of Auditors (ECA) published a report on Monday questioning whether the EU’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030 can become a success story, as the auditors found little indication that actions to achieve the objectives will be sufficient.
In October 2022, the European Commission reported that the EU had achieved its three climate and energy targets set for 2020. According to the auditors, this success was not solely due to the EU’s climate action. For example, they note that the EU-27 would likely not have met its 2020 energy efficiency target without lower energy consumption resulting from the 2009 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the EU’s evaluation of its ecological performance is not clear regarding the impact of external factors, according to Agerpes.
The auditors also found a lack of transparency in how EU member states achieved their mandatory national targets through flexible mechanisms: some EU countries did not contribute as expected and used other means to achieve their achieves targets, such as purchasing emission quotas or renewable energy quotas from other member states that had exceeded their targets. The auditors found little information on the real cost to the EU budget, national budgets and the private sector of achieving the targets and on actions that have proven successful. For this reason, it is difficult for citizens and stakeholders to determine whether the EU is pursuing its overall objectives in a cost-effective way and to draw lessons in relation to future 2030 targets.
“We need more transparency about the performance of the EU and member states in their climate and energy actions. We also believe that all EU greenhouse gas emissions should be accounted for, including those generated by trade and aviation and international maritime transport. This is important because the EU is committed to being a global leader in the transition to climate neutrality,” said Ms Joelle Elvinger, the member of the Court who led this audit.
The auditors confirm that the EU has achieved good results compared to other industrialized countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, the EU does not account for all its emissions, which would be about a tenth higher if the emissions generated by trade, international aviation and international maritime transport were included.
Looking ahead, ECA is concerned that there is no sign that sufficient funding is being made available to meet the more ambitious 2030 targets, particularly from the private sector, which is expected to make a significant contribution. The Commission also reported that, collectively, EU countries lack ambition in pursuing the 2030 energy efficiency target, with the corresponding 2020 target already proving to be the most difficult to achieve.
Some proposals to increase the objectives for 2030 (in particular the proposals “Prepare for 55” and “REPowerEU”) will further increase the financing needs. They also involve assumptions that either do not sufficiently take into account known issues (such as energy dependence on Russia) or do not materialize as planned (for example, the assumption that Member States will fully implement existing policies).