The EU roundtable included topics on EU climate and energy policy; data monitoring and sharing; potential decarbonisation scenarios for 2050; and challenges for carbon neutrality and the role of multi-level governance.
After the approval of the 2050 EU Energy Strategy, the EU committed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80-95% when compared to the 1990s level. The C-track 50 project aims to guide local and regional public authorities in their long-term energy policy priorities, and support them in the different stages of their actions plans on sustainable energy and climate policy. This is achieved through the promotion of multi-level cooperation between public authorities, and assistance for drafting funding proposals for local and regional authorities.
Back to back with the 4th project meeting in Athens and the Covenant of Mayors – C-track 50 Greek Info Day, an EU roundtable was assembled to give the opportunity to national authorities and experts from the eleven C-Track 50 countries to exchange their experiences in their path to successful action plans. Organised to facilitate the dialogue between organisations, this EU roundtable included topics on EU climate and energy policy; data monitoring and sharing; potential decarbonisation scenarios for 2050; and challenges for carbon neutrality and the role of multi-level governance.
Action planning & challenges
The roundtable was launched with some countries presenting their action plans and challenges faced during their implementation.
The debate started with the presentation of Charikleia Kloukinioti, from the Greek Ministry for Environment and Energy. She exposed the Greek context for 2050, stating that their final goal is to become climate-neutral. Alexandra Papadopoulou, representative of the National Technical University of Athens and coordinator of the C-Track 50 project, expressed her concerns on local involvement in the climate targets, as she argued that the measures taken by the Ministry to encourage multi-level governance are very generic and, therefore, difficult to implement.
Marga Rodriguez, manager of the Association of Spanish Agencies for Energy Management, was invited by the regional agency of Asturias, Spain (FAEN). She presented the Spanish action plan for energy and climate, which is based on a massive integration of renewable energy sources (RES) through transport and the electricity sector, taking on more ambitious targets (39.5%) than the EU’s. Nonetheless, this ambitious goal was put in perspective by Carsten Rothballer, project manager at ICLEI Europe, who mentioned the issue of coal in the integration of renewable energies in several European countries.
The coal challenge
Representatives from Spain, Romania, Germany, Greece, Poland and Hungary agreed all share the same problems of reliance on coal and mining, preventing them to set more ambitious targets.
Henrietta Enikő Csató, head of the Unit for Sustainable Cohesion Policy for the Ministry of Innovation and Technology of Hungary, voiced her country’s difficulties to reach the target set by the EU (10%) with such an energetical base on fossil fuels. At the same time, Alicja Nowak, Head of Unit at the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development of the Marshal Office of the Wielkopolska Region, added how the transition to RES can be complicated by the influence of the coal economy on several aspects of life: jobs, regional economy, etc.
As a response, Ulrich Laumanns, Project Manager in the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), talked about how a consultation on the reduction of coal has taken place in Germany, and how the process could also be exported to other countries.
Multi-level cooperation: not an easy task
The discussion then moved on to the next important issue that many countries are facing to implement their action plans: horizontal cooperation between Ministries, and vertical cooperation between different government levels. George Iliopoulos, managing director of EPTA, mentioned that the collaboration between levels of public authorities in Greece usually depends on projects, which is not useful to plan long-term in the future.
According to Irina Nicolau, expert in Energy Efficiency from the Romanian Energy Regulatory Authority, the situation in Romania is complex, as every Ministry is responsible for different competences; which is similar to the situation of Croatia, as explained by Velimir Segon, from the North West Croatia regional energy agency REGEA, who added the issue of the integration of numerous counties with individual energy plans.
Another issue mentioned was the data collection and data sharing within and between countries, to which Adriana Stavrakaki (EPTA) informed about their collaboration with energy providers to obtain specific data instead of using national databases. The regional energy agency of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (AURA-EE) also chose this practice to obtain more accurate and precise data, as mentioned by Patrick Biard, head of EU projects at AURA-EE. Several members of the roundtable also reinforced the importance of the accuracy, accessibility and the distribution of data; and the language barrier between politicians and experts was also mentioned to hinder the implementation of action plans.
Final round of questions
At the end, a round of questions was presented to the table to be answered and discussed by the different representatives.
When discussing the most efficient incentives to promote and fund sustainable energy measures, Greece mentioned its programme for reconstruction of private buildings of “Energy savings at home”, where private owners apply and benefit from low interest in loans which has allowed to stimulate the market. Latvia also explained their successful investment in the private sector, that even though it increased the price of technology, it also stimulated the market.
Finally, the debate moved onto the role of regional energy agencies in supporting the adaptation to climate change. For this question, most of the countries agreed that the role of energy agencies should be on consulting public authorities and citizens and supporting the move to climate change adaptation.
- Many European countries face similar problems when implementing their energy plans. Therefore, Programmes like C-track 50 are especially relevant to address these issues at the EU level and solve them in each participating country to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
- Multi-level collaboration is one of the most important challenges that European countries face when trying to adapt to climate change, but it is also the most effective path to achieve long-term solutions.
- Reliance on coal is a major concern for many countries when deciding to switch to RES. Not only because of the percentage of energy production, but also its social and economic impact.
- Investment in the private sector seems to be a good solution for some countries to stimulate the sustainable energy market, as a means to achieve their goals.
- Most countries agree that the role of regional energy agencies should be to support the local or regional authorities in their adaptation to climate change with expertise and competences.