Climate action must prioritise, not punish, the poorest

Posted on 17 December 2021

EU environment ministers will discuss the EU’s climate plans for 2030 - the ‘Fit for 55’ package.
What’s happening?
EU environment ministers are meeting on 20 December to discuss various parts of the EU’s climate plans for 2030 - the ‘Fit for 55’ package. 
They will focus on several key files proposed by the Commission in July and currently being negotiated in the EU Council and Parliament. 
These files include the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). The ETS puts a price on carbon pollution from sectors like electricity and heavy industry - and the European Commission now proposes extending it to transport and buildings. Plans for an EU ‘Social Climate Fund’, intended to compensate vulnerable consumers for the impacts of pricing carbon emitted through transport and heating, are also on the agenda. 
Ministers will also discuss the ‘Effort Sharing Regulation’ (ESR) proposal, which refers to national climate targets covering non-ETS sectors like agriculture and also, currently,  road transport and buildings.
They will consider too a proposal on ‘Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) rules, meaning emissions reductions and carbon dioxide removals in the land use sector. 
Imke Lübbeke, head of climate and energy at WWF European Policy Office
"Putting a price on carbon is an important part of the solution, but we must ensure it brings winter cheer rather than winter fear for vulnerable people. The SCF needs to kick in before higher carbon costs hit consumers, and be used to pay for the transformation of buildings and transport ready for a climate-neutral Europe.”
Why does it matter and what does WWF want to see?
The EU urgently needs to step up its climate action if it is to make a fair contribution to keeping global temperature rise to 1.5°C as agreed in Paris and reaffirmed in the recent COP26 outcome. 
Overall the EU has a 55% net emissions reduction target for 2030; this needs to be at least 65% real emissions cuts. 
Free ETS pollution permits to industry need to end as they create little incentive to decarbonise. The extension of the ETS to buildings and transport risks penalising the most vulnerable through higher prices for heating and transport, unless all revenues the extension generates are spent on targeted climate measures which benefit the most vulnerable and enable  them to invest in energy efficiency and other low carbon technologies, including through the new Social Climate Fund. 
The role of nature and land in absorbing carbon dioxide should be strengthened, but with priority always given to cutting emissions and without allowing polluting companies to offset their emissions by buying credits in the land use sector. 
Finally, national climate action and planning in the Governance regulation must be strengthened in order to achieve the higher national climate targets under the ESR and deliver on the EU’s new 2050 climate neutrality goal. 
What the EU’s finalised rules and laws for 2030 look like will be crucial for increasing emissions reductions in line with climate science, in a socially fair way.
Further information on WWF’s asks:
The proposals being discussed on Monday need considerable improvement.
The Emissions Trading System’s many loopholes need closing up. The allocation of free pollution permits to heavy industry must end so industry has an incentive to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. This will also foster innovation and improve the business case for low-carbon alternatives. The EU’s planned carbon border levy (‘Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism’) should be phased in as an alternative to free permits to pollute in the sectors it will cover (like iron and steel, cement, aluminium). 
What’s more, EU governments should be required to spend ETS revenues on socially fair climate action, with reporting rules tightened so it is clear which money they are spending on which measures. 
The extension of the Emissions Trading System to buildings and transport (‘ETS 2’) should not hurt the poorest. The EU’s proposed Social Climate Fund (SCF) - around €72.2 billion from 2025 to 2032 - aims to support European citizens should climate measures lead to higher bills or other unfair impacts. The Fund should be boosted with further revenues from the ETS, and should be used for things like sustainable renewable energy and transport, and energy efficiency measures - all of which would help deliver on the EU’s 2030 climate and energy targets. 

On LULUCF, the Commission’s proposed target of removing 310 Megatonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the land sector is far too low. The EU should instead aim to increase this to 600 Mt. This can be done by restoring nature and by putting sustainable agricultural and forestry practices into place. This would help both the climate and biodiversity. Critically, there should also be a clear separation between this target and those for emissions in other sectors. Net removals in the land use sector are hard to measure and not necessarily stable, so should not be treated as tonne-for-tonne equivalent to fossil fuel emissions, or used to offset and hence delay climate action elsewhere.

Finally, it is an illusion to think that we can simply increase national emissions reduction targets set for sectors like agriculture and waste under the ‘Effort Sharing Regulation’ (ESR) while leaving untouched rules about national climate action and planning contained in the Governance regulation. Co-legislators should use the ESR legislative debate to improve the quality of national planning documents such as National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) and national Long-Term Strategies (nLTS), and ensure that they’re consistent with the EU’s 2050 goal. Achieving our climate objectives requires to align short-term action with long term planning, and now is the time to establish an EU process for Member States to adopt national climate-neutrality targets. 

Sarah Azau
Communications Manager, WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 473 573 137
WWF Supporters take part in the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice march through Glasgow during COP26
© David Bebber / WWF-UK