The signatories of the 2015 Paris Agreement not only agreed to limit global warming to well below two degrees, but each country also put forward concrete measures to reduce greenhouse gases and secure financial support.
The EU member states report annually to the European Environment Agency EEA on current levels of greenhouse gas emissions and every two years on implemented and planned climate policies and measures.
However, even after over 20 years of operation, standardised policy monitoring, which permits comparative conclusions across the European Union, has so far remained incomplete. In their new study, Schönefeld, Schulze and two international colleagues looked into the factors driving good monitoring and how the quality of the monitoring processes can be improved.
“At EU level we simply do not know enough about the impact of many climate policies and therefore struggle to identify the best measures”, explains Kai Schulze, Assistant Professor at the Institute for Housing and Environment (Institut Wohnen und Umwelt, IWU) and the Institute of Political Science (IfP) of TU Darmstadt.
The climate policy-based data submitted to the EEA are not only very heterogeneous, but also primarily contain estimates of expected future policy impacts, not actual policy impacts in the past. “There are simply not enough data to understand past policy impact”, notes Dr. Jonas Schönefeld, a Research Associate at the IfP.
Their findings demonstrate that EU members with higher overall public spending report in a timelier fashion than countries with a smaller public budgets. By contrast, countries including Denmark, the United Kingdom and Germany, which were at the forefront of monitoring and evaluating their climate policies ten years ago, still remain ahead today. At the same time, there are significant learning effects in policy monitoring across the countries, evidenced by greater levels of quantification.
“In other words, climate policy monitoring systems are improving”, stresses Schönefeld. However, time is of essence in relation to decarbonisation. In order to rapidly improve the monitoring systems and in particular the collection of data on past policy impacts, the study suggests that the European Commission and the EEA need to provide technical support and raise greater awareness among the member states that monitoring needs to be a higher political priority. Schönefeld explains: “Monitoring systems require resources, reliable institutional frameworks and committed political stakeholders”.
The study “Policy Monitoring in the EU: The Impact of Institutions, Implementation and Quality” relies on quantitative regression models and qualitative interviews. It was co-funded by the Federal Ministry of Science and Research as part of the Kopernikus project ENavi (funding code: 03SFK4P0) and is published in a new special issue of German Political Science Quarterly.
Aside from TU Darmstadt, the research team also involved colleagues from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the School of Environmental Sciences of the University of East Anglia UEA and the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE.