Only three EU member states are following environmental policies in line with pledges under the Paris Agreement, a new ranking study reveals.
Sweden, France and Germany top the ranking study, developed by Carbon Market Watch and Transport & Environment (T&E). Ireland ranks poorly, sitting in 18th place.
The study examines the policy position of member states in negotiations over the EU’s Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR).
The ESR covers roughly 60 per cent of EU emissions that come from transport, buildings, agriculture and waste.
The remaining emissions come from heavy industry and aircraft emissions under the emission trading system (ETS).
The rankings are based on publicly available documents, ministers’ declarations and official papers submitted to the European Council’s Working Party on Environment. The NGOs then cross-checked their findings with country representatives.
The study finds that various countries, including Ireland, have looked to shrink their 2030 targets by pushing for a weaker emissions baseline.
Countries are also looking to exploit “loopholes” in forestry credits to outset their ESR emissions.
“Relying on credits from planting trees is troublesome as the carbon removals can be reversed at any time when trees are cleared and burned,” the study says.
Another key “loophole” is the dishing out of a huge surplus of pollution permits from the ETS section to nine member states.
“The great majority of countries want to rig the law with loopholes so they can continue business as usual,” says Carlos Calvo Ambel, T&E’s transport and energy analyst.
Ireland is set to gain considerable from these loopholes, according to Mr Ambel. He says that Ireland will earn up to 10 per cent of the 280 million forestry credits on offer, and almost one-fifth of the ETS flexibility. As the commission’s position currently stands, Ireland would only be required to cut its emissions by one per cent up to 2030.
However, the report says that Ireland has been lobbying to “further weaken” the Commission’ proposal by moving the baseline year from 2020 to 2021. “The country is still trying to stall reduction efforts for another decade,” the report says.
This change would allow for an additional 249MT of emissions to be released across Europe up to 2030. This is almost equal to the annual emissions of the Canadian oil-producing province of Alberta.
Femke De Jong of Carbon Market Watch also called for EU politicians to close these loopholes. He says that states must “put their money where their mouth” and push for more ambitious climate action.
“Only with determined climate action will lawmakers ensure that European citizens can enjoy the significant benefits of a decarbonised society,” he adds.
Sweden topped the ranking as its domestic targets for 2030 are well above the ESR target. The Nordic country also gained points for announcing that it will not use ETS allowances.
A county ranking on the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) Regulation will be published by Fern, an NGO focused on forests, in the coming weeks.