Kögel, N. (2024): Policy integration: Enhancing the social dimension in climate policy planning instruments in the EU. An assessment of Member States’ NECPs, TJTPs & RRPs. Ecologic Institute; Berlin.

Policy integration: Enhancing the social dimension in climate policy planning instruments in the EU

This report investigates how the EU legal framework for climate policy planning, and its implementation at the national level, can be improved to enhance the integration of the social dimension in EU climate policy.

Research Topic

  • This report is based on the premise that promoting the integration of sectoral policies is fundamental to driving transformative climate governance. It suggests that such integration can bolster the social aspect of climate policy planning, garner greater public backing for climate initiatives, and mitigate the risks associated with maintaining a incoherent policy landscape.
  • It first explores how relevant EU policy planning instruments are already aligned by design through a document analysis, and then it investigates how the legal requirements were implemented at the national level in four countries (Finland, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Spain) through another document analysis as well as expert interviews.
  • The investigated policy planning instruments are the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), Recovery and Resilience Plans (RRPs), Territorial Just Transition Plans (TJTPs), and Social Climate Plans (SCPs).
  • Within the transformative governance framework established in the 4i-TRACTION project, the findings are contextualised along three criteria: overall effectiveness, policy resilience, and quality of implementation.

Why look at the social dimension of climate policy?

  • To accomplish both social and climate goals, it's essential to prioritise distributive and procedural justice throughout the development of climate policies.
  • Climate policies that focus on principles like fairness, equity, and social co-benefits often attract greater public backing, whereas perceptions of climate policies as socially detrimental or unjust can fuel opposition against them.
  • Timing matters! Improved ex-ante coordination between climate and social policies can aid Member States in executing measures to mitigate negative impacts and maximise social advantages. This includes implementing social support measures ahead of the introduction of new climate policies.
  • Enhancing the integration of the social dimension into climate policy could lead to a more thorough evaluation of co-effects, facilitated by more accurate data. Thus far, methodological hurdles in assessing these effects have often impeded their systematic integration into quantitative policy assessments.
  • Neglecting to sufficiently address the social aspect of climate policy within policy measures exposes them to criticism from proponents of the status quo, such as fossil fuel advocates, which could hinder the effective implementation of climate policy.


Growing integration of the social dimension in climate policy, but significant room for improvement

The findings of this report indicate a growing integration of the social dimension in climate policy related national planning in the EU. They also reveal that the EU's requirements in this area have been partly adopted at the national level. This provides a promising foundation for further enhancing this integration process and for improving the alignment of policy planning procedures. However, there is room for improvement in enhancing the integration of the social dimension of climate policy in pertinent legislation and its implementation.

Key findings from both document analyses

1. Understanding of the social dimension. Plans often lack (common) definitions of key terms, impeding consistency checks across a member state’s plans. Plans often do not establish cross-references to key terms from other plans, thereby missing out on the opportunity to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the social dimension. The mandated connections between planning processes based on EU regulations are only set up to a limited degree.

2. Public consultations. The national plans fall short of fulfilling the legal obligations to include summaries of public consultations that outline how the input by the public was integrated into the plans or their implementation, which makes it difficult to assess their influence on policy making.

3. Quantitative data availability. For the plans examined in this report, the reporting of quantitative data related to the social dimension of climate policy remains limited.

4. Responsible bodies for implementation. Given that the responsible bodies for implementation are mostly included in the plans of the four countries, this information provides a promising foundation for mitigating governance fragmentation when addressing the social dimension of climate policy further.

5. Exchange of good practices. Regarding the exchange of good practices, the plans are only aligned to a limited degree. This presents an opportunity for ongoing sharing of acquired and new knowledge concerning the social dimension of climate policy.


Integration opportunities exist in three areas

  • An opportunity for integration lies in streamlining a common understanding of what the social dimension of climate related policy planning entails and adopting common definitions across all EU planning documents, while still allowing for flexibility at the national level. For instance, enhancing the reporting on social aspects as outlined in the NECP template could encompass a broader range of social dimensions and suggest definitions and indicators for practical application.
  • Better aligning the timing of policy planning and monitoring processes can enhance the efficient utilisation of data and promote a more holistic approach to addressing the social dimension. For instance, the simultaneous submission of progress reports for the SCPs and NECPs presents a significant opportunity, although this alignment is not anticipated until 2027 – which is after the introduction of the ETS2. This underscores the importance of harmonising preparatory processes for both plans in the interim to ensure the realisation of a unified and integrated approach.
  • Another area offering opportunities for integration lies in enhancing evidence-based policymaking, which requires a significant augmentation of data regarding the social dimension. This can aid in the adept formulation and execution of policies. An uncomplicated method for broadening the evidence base involves more effectively incorporating public consultations and sharing best practices, along with comprehensively collecting and disseminating data gathered through these processes. Moreover, to enhance transparency in policymaking, establishing a 'data-tracking platform' could prove pivotal. Such a platform could potentially leverage existing tools like the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Energy Poverty Advisory Hub.