The EU institutions provide necessary support to the member states in accomplishing the “green deal” objectives in a cost-effective manner. Recent guidelines on state aid include sections on energy efficiency and infrastructure, clean mobility and circular economy, pollution reduction and restoration of biodiversity, as well as measures to ensure security of energy supply. Besides, the new EU climate law supports and specifies some additional ambitious “green targets” in the states political economy.
The European Green Deal’s general aim is to make the EU states’ economies climate neutral by 2050. To make this objective legally binding, the Commission proposed the European Climate Law, which also sets a new, more ambitious net greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least -55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. In order to achieve the EU-wide decarbonisation objectives, harmful emissions must be reduced in all sectors of national development: i.e. from industry and energy, to transport and farming. Climate change is a global threat and can only be addressed by a global response: thus, the EU institutions are actively engage and support all international partners on climate action, in particular through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris-2015 Climate Agreement. In parallel to mitigation actions, the EU is taking action on climate adaptation, to face the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
Main objectives of the EU-wide climate actions are: a) more ambitious and cost-effective path to achieving climate neutrality by 2050; b) stimulating creation of green jobs and continuing the EU’s track record of cutting greenhouse gas emissions (whilst growing national economies); and c) encouraging international partners to increase their ambition to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C and avoid the most severe consequences of climate change.
For decision-makers and national governance it is important to follow the rules on impact assessment and preparing the “national ground” for adapting climate and energy policies to help decarbonise the socio-economic development. This, for example, includes determining the future role of carbon pricing and its interaction with other national policies and priorities.
On the EU-2030 Climate Target Plan in: https://climate.ec.europa.eu/eu-action/european-green-deal/2030-climate-target-plan_en
The Commission’s 2022 Guidelines on State aid for climate, environmental protection and energy provide guidance on how the EU member states would assess the compatibility of environmental protection, including climate and energy aid measures which are subject to the notification requirement (art. 107 (3,c) TFEU.
State aid for climate and energy measures
The new guidelines, applicable from January 2022, create a flexible, fit-for-purpose enabling framework to help the EU states in creating necessary measures to accomplish the “green deal” objectives in a targeted and cost-effective manner. The rules involve an alignment with the important EU’s objectives and targets set out in the European Green Deal and with other recent regulatory changes in the energy and environmental areas and will cater for the increased importance of climate protection. The rules also include sections on energy efficiency measures, aid for clean mobility, infrastructure, circular economy, pollution reduction, protection and restoration of biodiversity, as well as measures to ensure security of energy supply (though, subject to certain conditions).
The EU state-aid guidelines allow national governance to support the production of heat from cogeneration plants linked to district heating sector; besides, the rules assist the states in meeting the EU-wide energy and climate targets at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition in the EU Single Market.
With the European Green Deal Communication in 2019, the Commission reinforced its climate ambitions, setting an objective of net zero emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050, or even by 2040. The European Climate Law in force since July 2021, which enshrines the 2050 climate neutrality objective and introduces the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, sets the ground for the “Fit-for- 55” legislative proposals presented by the Commission on 14 July 2021.
Among these proposals, the Commission presented amendments to two directives: the Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive with more ambitious binding annual targets to increase the production of energy from renewable sources and reduce energy use in the EU-27 member states.
Note: references to the State Aid Register on the Commission’s Competition website; new publications of state-aid decisions are on the internet and in the Official Journal, are listed in the Competition Weekly e-News and in: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_23_1214
For example, in waste management (which a vital source of energy green transition), the waste hierarchy principle is a guiding principle in the European approach to managing: it was established in the Waste Framework Directive which defines the waste hierarchy as the priority order of operations to be followed in the management of waste: prevention, preparing for reuse, recycling, other recovery (including energy recovery), and disposal.
European climate law: new sphere of legal activity
In March 2020, the Commission adopted proposal for a regulation to establish a framework for achieving continental climate neutrality by 2050; hence, the so-called “European climate law” was published in the Official Journal on 9 July 2021 and entered into force on 29 July 2021.
See: Regulation of the Parliament and the Council on establishing the framework for achieving climate neutrality in: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52020PC0563; and https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32021R1119
The climate law aims to ensure that all EU policies contribute to this goal and that all sectors of the economy and society play their part. The following objectives are envisioned: = a set of long-term direction of travel for meeting the 2050 climate neutrality objective through all policies, in a socially fair and cost-efficient manner; = establishing more ambitious EU-2030 climate targets (of at least 55% reduction of net emissions of greenhouse gases as compared to 1990, with clarity on the contribution of emission reductions and removals); = to set the EU member states on a responsible path to becoming climate-neutral by 2050; = creating a system for monitoring climate neutrality progress in the states; = providing predictability for investors and other economic actors in the process; and = ensure that the transition to climate neutrality is irreversible.
Reference to: https://climate.ec.europa.eu/eu-action/european-green-deal/european-climate-law_en
The EU-wide climate law from 2021 also includes measures of “tracking implementation of progress” and adjusting the EU-wide and the states’ actions accordingly, based on existing political-economy’s system (including national governance process). The member states’ national energy and climate plans shall be regularly assess by the European Environment Agency, following the latest scientific evidence on climate change and its impacts. Progress will be reviewed every five years, in line with the global implementation clause under the 2015-Paris Agreement.
The EU climate law also includes some administrative tasks: e.g. establishment of European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change aimed to provide independent scientific advice to the EU institutions and the member states; facilitating national governance’s commitment to actively engage with socio-economic sectors to prepare specific roadmaps charting the path to climate neutrality in different political-economy’s areas.
No doubt, some controversies and clashes of interest will appear in the climate law’s implementation process: hence the increasing role of legal practitioners.