8th EAP: Finally a binding EU deadline for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies?

Posted on 26 November 2021

What is happening?

On 1 December, the European Parliament, Council, and the European Commission will hold the last trilogue meeting to decide on the 8th Environment Action Programme, which sets the broad direction for environmental policy in the EU until 2030. The outcome will be legally binding on all Member States.

Why does this matter?

The EU’s 8th Environment Action Programme (EAP) holds the promise of enshrining key environmental commitments into binding law. Proposals by the European Parliament include significant improvements (that can help translate the political commitments of the European Green Deal into action), such as binding deadlines for governments to phase out fossil fuel and other environmentally harmful subsidies. 

As such, the 8th EAP presents the EU’s first opportunity after COP26 to take concrete steps to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, as agreed in the ‘Glasgow Climate Pact’, and committed to by EU governments over the past two decades but never realised. 

The Parliament report vastly improved on the Commission proposal and the Council’s position, which had all repeated the EU’s numerous previous commitments to phase out all environmentally harmful subsidies, but without clear deadlines for doing so. With fossil fuel subsidies having even risen over the past few years, it is clear that strict timelines, reporting obligations, and methodologies need to be agreed.

However, despite several months of trilogue negotiations, no agreement on these deadlines was found by the negotiators at technical level, and a showdown is expected in the last round of trilogues on 1 December.

With its comprehensive report adopted in July, the European Parliament had also presented other critical elements for the 8th EAP. The position also called for a shift to a “wellbeing economy” within planetary boundaries, mandatory consistency checks of all EU policies against environmental objectives, and an evaluation of the cost of non-action in impact assessments.

What will WWF be looking for?

WWF considers that these key elements must be included in the 8th EAP:
  • Phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, and all other environmentally harmful subsidies by 2027 at the latest, based on a common methodology and annual reporting: According to Commission research, fossil fuel subsidies in the EU amounted to 50 billion euros in 2018 alone, with no significant reduction in sight.
  • Shift to a Wellbeing Economy by putting in place ‘Beyond GDP’ indicators, guided by public interests and not merely GDP growth: All three institutions have included references to new economic models, but a clear commitment to looking into the different indicator and monitoring frameworks in place is needed, in order for decision-makers to have the tools for political prioritisation beyond GDP.
  • Strengthen the 8th EAP’s enabling conditions and environmental governance: This includes the swift and full implementation of environmental law, systematic consistency checks of all EU policies and measures with the objectives of the 8th EAP, taking into account the cost of inaction, as well as improvements to the ‘Better Regulation’ guidelines and toolbox to guarantee transparent, inclusive and informed decision making.
  • Concrete commitments towards ensuring policy coherence and including the cost of inaction on climate and the environment in impact assessments, as well as systematically assessing the impacts on the environment of new measures.

“Clearly, vague promises on phasing out subsidies don’t work, and the time has come for firm commitments and legally binding deadlines. With the EU’s pledges at COP26 fresh in voters’ minds, Member States must now take concrete steps to live up to them,” said Rebecca Humphries, Senior Public Affairs Officer, WWF European Policy Office.

“The 8th EAP presents a concrete opportunity to enshrine these promises - but only if it includes firm deadlines for phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies, and a commitment towards developing ‘beyond GDP’ frameworks for policy-making. The Member States and the Commission must support the Parliament’s position, or risk squandering the chance of an 8th EAP that prompts real action.”