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Today marks an important stage in EU climate and energy policy and one which I as Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action am particularly happy about.
At the start of this mandate, many doubted the need for Governance of the Energy Union. The Commission pushed, and with the support of the European Parliament and several Member States, we got a Governance process aimed at achieving our collective objectives and to spur the energy transition across Europe.
This is first and foremost a collaborative approach. The Recommendations that the Commission has issued today should be perceived as a support to Member States in finalising high-quality national plans able to live up to the climate challenge and the move to clean energy.
The first conclusion I draw is one of success, and this on several accounts. First, all Member States have prepared national plans and this by or very close to the deadline provided by the legislation. This was not a given. Second, the national plans are integrated, covering not only energy and climate policy but also big parts of economic policy and others. Third, the level of ambition in several plans should be noted, and where it is not yet the case, there is ample room to address this in the months ahead when finalising the plans. In short, the EU is delivering.
This final point is important. The Commission Recommendation follow from a phase of intense contacts with Member States but are only the beginning of the iterative dialogue with Member States. We are now moving to a stage of close cooperation with Member States with the aim to improve the national plans, sharpen the objectives and identify national policies than can ensure their implementation.
As I said, the overall assessment is positive - but there is still clearly room for improvement. So where do we stand?
First, on greenhouse gas emissions, there is good news. The national plans would already allow the EU meet its target of reducing emissions by at least 40% by 2030. However, we are not quite there for the sectors outside Emission Trading where emissions would reduce by 28 rather than 30%.
For renewables, there is a gap - but one that should be possible to close. The national plans deliver some 30 to 31% renewables while the target is 32%
For energy efficiency, however, there is a substantial gap with national contributions in the range of 26 to 31% while the target is 32,5%. In this area, most Member States need to scale up their game.
There is also a need to further specify concrete measures to reach national objectives. This is of equal importance to the actual level of ambition. National plans need to be able to explain the “how” and the “with what”, notably investment plans. The energy transition is in its very essence, an investment strategy.
The national plans are indeed about more that just targets. Energy security is an important dimension of the Energy Union and hence of the national plans. However, very few Member States put forward clear, measurable objectives in this area.
Member States should also clarify that the regulatory framework is in place for more integrated energy markets. Here again, Member States should include clearer and measurable objectives, for elements such as the wholesale and retail markets, the deployment of smart grids and the protection of final energy consumers.
On interconnections, Member States that are currently below 15% of electricity interconnection should indicate the level they are aiming for in 2030. And Member States need to make additional efforts to integrate research, innovation and competitiveness objectives into their plans, to support the implementation of their targets. This also applies to the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies.
I am hopeful that this will be achieved. The Commission will continue to work constructively with Member States to finalise and then implement the national plans. The 2030 energy and climate targets are very ambitious and require concrete efforts across the economy. The national plans offer a common and solid platform to engage and discuss across the Union with civil society, social partners and local government. The public should be closely involved.
This will also be important in the context of the EU Strategy for Climate Neutrality, to be discussed at this week's European Council. The national plans provide a first step in this direction, by setting the 2030 milestone. It is now important for the European Council to carry this through, by endorsing a climate neutral EU by 2050. I call on the support of all Member States to do so.