What the Dutch Presidency promises for EU climate and energy policy

Visit of the King of the Netherlands to the European Parliament in Brussels, November 2015
Visit of the King of the Netherlands to the European Parliament in Brussels, November 2015
European Parliament Audiovisual Services

Publish date: January 11, 2016

On 1 January 2016 the Netherlands took over the six-month rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Being one of the six founding member nations of the EU the Netherlands benefits from extensive experience in the EU decision and policy making arena. Featured among the Presidency’s busy agenda will be laying the groundwork and initiating implementation of the recently adopted Paris agreement and supporting the delivery of the Energy Union Strategy.

Climate policy: from building common positions, to implementation 

With much of the attention being directed towards the COP 21 climate change negotiations under the UNFCCC in the last quarter of 2015, in 2016 there will be a shift towards implementation of the Paris agreement. The Dutch Presidency will play a crucial role in initiating the first steps.

The Presidency will be in charge of facilitating and monitoring proper implementation of the agreed legal provisions in EU law. The implementation of the Paris deal will also likely influence ongoing climate policy discussions on the EU arena, such as for instance the reform of the EU’s Emission Trading System (EU ETS), its associated low-carbon technology funds, and the revision of vehicle emission testing rules: all being topics which Bellona has been actively working on over the past year and will continue following.

The EU ETS is regarded as one of the key instruments for attaining the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 40% by 2030. Given this would entail a significant contribution from energy-intensive industries and the power sector, it is expected that discussions will largely revolve around ‘carbon leakage’ (i.e. a term used to describe situations where, as a result of costs incurred from the implementation of climate policies, certain businesses relocate production to countries with less stringent (or no) climate policies in place) and measures to safeguard against the risk of its occurrence.

Tackling emissions from aviation and maritime sectors

What is more, the Presidency will have to set the scene and facilitate a common position within the Council before the upcoming session of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Despite significant pressure from civil society organisations, in the form of initiatives such as the Elephants in the Room by T&E, in the lead up to COP 21, the Paris agreement omits aviation and shipping: two growing sources of global COemissions. This has been partially the result of arguments that these sectors are already regulated by the ICAO and IMO, and thus the need to avoid ‘double-regulation’ under the UNFCCC. What we need to see now are firm and ambitious commitments from EU Member States to drive work forward within the ICAO and IMO” comments Jonas Helseth, Director at Bellona Europa.

Well-positioned to drive delivery of Paris agreement

Being the host of institutions such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, the Hague is also known as the world’s legal capital and is therefore believed to be in a good position to clarify and foster implementation of legal provisions of the Paris agreement. In addition to its historic legal expertise, the Netherlands is also currently experiencing internal pressures to speed up with climate efforts, such as for instance through the recent motion in the Dutch parliament calling on the government to investigate the impact of closing all coal-fired power stations. This domestic pressure could trickle upwards onto EU climate policies.

What about energy?

The Dutch presidency has announced as one of its priorities the delivery of the EU Energy Union Strategy. The presidency will be opening Council discussions on the package of policy and legislative initiatives the Commission is expected to present on 10 February 2016. Among the legislative proposals to be put on the table will be a review of the Regulation on security of gas supply.