Review of governance regulation

Sebastian Oberthür et al. (2024): Review of the governance regulation and  the European climate law.Upgrading the EU’s procedural climate governance. Policy Options Paper. Brussels, Belgium.

Related Research: Review of the governance regulation and the European climate law

This policy options paper, authored by 4i-TRACTION partners, addresses shortcomings and gaps of procedural EU climate governance and identifies key options for upgrading eight major dimensions of procedural EU climate governance.

The mandated reviews of the Governance Regulation and the European Climate Law (ECL) provide a unique opportunity for upgrading the EU’s procedural climate governance. The Governance Regulation (Regulation 2018/1999 on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action) and the ECL (Regulation 2021/1119 on Establishing the Framework for Achieving Climate Neutrality) are the foundational building blocks of procedural EU climate governance. They define first instruments, institutions and processes for developing and implementing substantive EU climate policies that directly address the mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

Procedural climate governance is of pivotal importance for a successful transition to climate neutrality. The long-term, dynamically evolving and crosscutting nature of the “super wicked” climate challenge requires the continuous development and adaptation of climate policies. The increasing contestation of climate policies and rising climate “backlash” reinforce the need to firmly anchor the climate transition in our societal and political systems and hence underline the importance of effective procedural climate governance, i.e. of the “how” of climate policymaking, aiming for accountability, fairness, and inclusivity in decision-making. 

Against this backdrop, it seems paramount to address existing shortcomings and gaps of procedural EU climate governance to mobilise its potential to the fullest extent possible.

6 key options for upgrading eight major dimensions of procedural EU climate governance:

  1. National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) and Long-Term Strategies (LTSs) under the Governance Regulation: 

    (a) alignment of NECPs and national LTSs with each other and with other plans and strategies; (b) enhanced and aligned review mechanisms, (c) strengthened support and capacity building, and (d) regular updating of the EU LTS.

  2. Climate-neutrality targets: integration into member states’ LTSs under the Governance Regulation, including key accompanying information on how residual emissions are to be balanced, based on independent scientific advice.

  3. Public participation, in particular: 

    (a) acknowledgement of the 1998 Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters and the right to peaceful assembly; (b) upgrading of public participation in NECPs and national LTSs and of multilevel climate and energy dialogues under Articles 10 and 11 of the Governance Regulation; (c) promotion of innovative means of public participation and deliberation in member states and at EU level; (d) commitment to provide information on how public participation inputs have been integrated into policymaking; (e) provision of support and best-practice guidance; (f) setting up of a consultation structure on EU climate policy and balancing of the composition of advisory bodies.

  4. Access to justice (A2J)

    (a) clarification that acts and omissions of the Commission under these instruments can be challenged under the EU’s Aarhus Regulation; (b) providing for A2J in member states regarding key obligations under the Governance Regulation; and (c) a general commitment to including A2J provisions across EU climate and energy legislation or establishing a related provision in the Governance Regulation itself.

  5. Reporting obligations of member states and related review under the Governance Regulation: 

    (a) instituting systematic biennial reviews by the Commission with actionable recommendations; (b) strengthened reporting particularly concerning the social dimension and investment frameworks; and (c) enhancing the transparency of biennial progress reports.

  6. Evaluation and response (regarding member-state ambition and progress) under the Governance Regulation: 

    (a) clarification that related Commission recommendations can be challenged under the Aarhus Regulation (see above on A2J); (b) strengthened member state obligations to take corrective action; and (c) cross-compliance restrictions on access to funding in response to persistent lack of ambition or progress.

  7. Independent scientific expert advisory bodies under the ECL: 

    (a) further specification of the mandate of the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change; (b) requirement for the European Institutions to explain how the advice received has been taken into account in decision-making; and (c) strengthened guidance for member states to establish national advisory bodies in accordance with best-practice standards.

  8. Cross-policy consistency and climate policy integration

    (a) elaboration and codification of the principles on Do No Significant Harm (DNSH) and fostering synergy/coherence; and (b) full alignment of economic and investment policies (European Semester, public budgets, relevant national plans and strategies) with climate policy objectives.

A coherent and integrated reform package across all key dimensions of procedural EU climate governance could be achieved by revising the Governance Regulation and the ECL in parallel, or by including consequential amendments of the ECL in a revision of the Governance Regulation. Most of the identified options could be incorporated in a revised Governance Regulation. Two issues in particular, namely scientific expert advisory bodies and climate policy integration, have a strong primary home in the ECL.

On balance, the package of options enables streamlining, enhancing coherence and simplifying procedural EU climate governance. Whereas some identified options may strengthen existing reporting and planning requirements in limited and targeted ways, this may be outweighed by suggestions for reinforcing facilitative best-practice guidance and capacity building, and for streamlining and simplification, especially regarding national planning. 

Overall, the identified package of options has the potential to make the framework for developing and implementing EU climate policy fit for the travel to climate neutrality in 2050 and negative GHG emissions thereafter. Upgraded in this way, its procedural climate governance may also contribute to stabilising and reinvigorating the EU’s democratic architecture – through advancing the legitimacy of climate governance and moving towards participatory “climate democracy”. The scheduled reviews of the Governance Regulation and the ECL provide a unique and critical opportunity for realising this potential.


Download the paper on the GreenDeal-NET website