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EU’s 2030 Climate Targets at Risk Due to Ambiguous National Plans

Experts from the European Climate Neutrality Observatory (ECNO) have cautioned that the European Union’s 2030 climate commitments are jeopardized by unclear and inconsistent national climate plans, which heavily lean on green hydrogen, biofuels, and underground carbon storage. In a report released on January 31, the ECNO researchers assessed the transparency and internal coherence of national energy and climate plans (NECPs) across member states, identifying shortcomings in the plans of Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden. The report emphasizes the need for enhanced transparency in achieving emission targets and warns of a combined shortfall of 101 megatonnes of carbon dioxide annually by 2030 across the five countries.

A key concern raised in the report is the inadequate system-wide planning, particularly in allocating resources for the expected expansion of biofuels and renewable hydrogen. The plans lack clarity on the sources of sustainable supply, posing a risk of countries falling short of their climate targets. For instance, the report highlights the ambiguity surrounding the supply of green power required for producing green hydrogen, which is crucial for future industries. The absence of realistic plans to source this power could lead to bottlenecks and hinder the attainment of renewable energy goals.

The report also points out challenges in the expansion of biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, as national plans do not specify the sources of imported supply. This ambiguity may lead to global issues like “land grabs” and accelerated deforestation. Additionally, the report questions the over-reliance on underground carbon storage, known as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, citing their historical failure to reduce emissions effectively. Despite substantial investments, CCS projects have faced operational challenges, high costs, and low technological readiness, making them economically impractical.

The Italian government’s heavy reliance on CCS without outlining alternative plans is singled out in the report, raising concerns about the potential continuation of fossil fuel dependency. Critics, including International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol, have dismissed CCS-heavy pathways as “pure fantasy.” The ECNO researchers stress the importance of avoiding blind dependence on limited resources and call for more detailed and transparent national plans to ensure the EU meets its climate targets.

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