NGOs call for much stronger environmental and climate commitments

As the EU Council tomorrow debates A framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 [1], proposed by the European Commission, NGOs today called for much stronger environmental and climate commitments in the upcoming revised Treaty of Energy Community, which brings together the Western Balkan countries, Ukraine and Moldova, during a public hearing taking place in the European Parliament.

The EC’s climate proposal calls for a binding target of 40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2030 and has been criticised by the European Parliament and others for its lack of ambition. Therefore, all eyes will be turned to the European Heads of States tomorrow, when they convene to further discuss the future of EU climate and energy policy. Although most of the countries of the Energy Community are striving to become EU members in the next decade – Serbia and Montenegro have already opened negotiations while others are expected to follow – none of the countries have adopted greenhouse gas reductions targets.

Garret Tankosić-Kelly, Principal of SEE Change Net, and one of the panelists at today’s hearing An Energy Community for the Future, emphasizes that failure to adopt EU 2020, 2030 and 2050 targets will only move South East Europe away from the EU path. “SEE countries want to be part of the EU, and not taking on these standards now will make it harder and more expensive to do so in the future. A week might be a long time in politics, but a decade is nothing in energy planning. This is the conflict of interests we face.”

The case of Croatia has clearly demonstrated what kind of drastic changes countries will face with adapting their legislation according to the EU acquis, leaving limited space for public participation and a number of uncertainties in fulfilling the obligations, particularly those related to climate and energy.

However, the Energy Community has so far been largely focused on transposition and implementation of the EU energy acquis while only patchy bits of environmental legislation have been adopted.

“It is essential to include the whole range of Directives covering industrial emissions and air quality, but also energy-related water, waste and habitats legislation [2] if the Energy Community is to be part of a European energy market with a level playing field for all participants”, commented Angela Klauschen, a policy expert at the World Wide Fund For Nature. “Signatory countries must comply with all relevant EU social, environmental and climate legislation through automatic and systematic updates of the Treaty. The current situation, in which only a small portion of the acquis has been adopted by the Energy Community countries means that there is a danger of ‘emissions leakage’ [3] or “energy grabbing”[4]”, she added.

We believe that countries of the region should be supported with development of their energy strategies in line with long-term EU goals [5], in order to ensure that only appropriate investments leading to decarbonisation and the sustainable use of renewable resources are encouraged. This approach would enable social and economic cohesion and distribution of benefits from energy production and consumption, which would tackle energy poverty and enable an increase in sustainable employment.

“No true progress and democratization of our societies can be achieved without an open and frank debate of all actors”, said Dragana Mileusnić of Climate Action Network Europe. “Thus, we call for civil society representatives from various sectors to be allowed to participate at Energy Community meetings and for implementation of the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. Finally, we call for stronger measures against corruption and illegal subsidies in the energy sector”, she concluded.