In a Nutshell
The Just Transition Mechanism is the European Union’s main tool to ensure that the transition to a climate-neutral economy happens in a fair and just way. Through its three pillars, it aims to mobilise an estimated EUR 55 billion over 2021-2027 to support the European regions, sectors and workers most affected by the transition.
The EU regions identified as most at risk or overburdened by the transition, and thus most in need of justice-oriented policies, are those whose economies rely heavily on fossil fuel extraction and production, particularly coal. Poland, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Spain face the greatest potential job losses in this sector.
The policy establishes three financial mechanisms to work towards a Europe-wide just transition: the Just Transition Fund (JTF), a dedicated transition scheme under InvestEU, and a loan facility provided by the European Investment Bank. Respectively, they offer grants, mobilise private investments and leverage public finance. Whereas the eligibility criteria for the JTF promote the diversification and modernisation of economies and the reskilling of workers, the other mechanisms are broader in scope and include a wide range of sectors.
As a nascent sector set to grow in scale and importance in the coming decades, carbon dioxide removal falls under the scope of the Just Transition Mechanism. To function, the EU CDR industry will need a large workforce, making it a natural candidate for reskilling programmes across multiple sectors, including academic research, engineering and technical jobs.
What's on the Horizon?
The eighth edition of the Just Transition Platform Conference will take place between 23 and 25 October in Brussels.
By June 2025, the Commission will need to review the implementation of the Joint Transition Fund.
Each member state has a national share reserved under the Public Sector Loan Facility until 31 December 2025. There are regular deadlines to apply for grants under the facility, with the next one on 17 January 2024.
The territorial Just Transition plans cover the period up to 2030.
The Just Transition Fund
The JTF is the first pillar of the Just Transition Mechanism. The fund primarily supports the economic diversification and reconversion of the most affected regions through grants. EUR 17.5 billion was attributed to the fund through a regulation, with EUR 7.5 billion coming from the Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021-2027 (MFF) and EUR 10 billion from the NextGenerationEU for the period 2021-2023.
To access allocated funds, member states must prepare territorial just transition plans covering territories “most negatively affected based on the economic and social impacts resulting from the transition”. Special consideration should be given to islands and outermost regions.
The InvestEU “Just Transition” scheme
The second pillar of the JTM provides budgetary guarantees to ‘implementing partners’ that the EU Commission will provide direct or indirect financing. It can support investments detailed in national territorial just transition plans spanning a wide range of projects, including energy and transport infrastructure decarbonisation, economic diversification and social infrastructure. This scheme is expected to mobilise EUR 10-15 billion, coming mostly from the private sector, with some support from InvestEU implementing partners such as the European Investment Bank.
The public sector loan facility with the European Investment Bank
The third pillar of the JTM and its accompanying regulation provides a mix of EUR 1.5 billion in grants from the EU budget and approximately EUR 10 billion of loans from the European Investment Bank. A further EUR 18-25 billion of public investments is expected to be mobilised. The loan facility mainly targets energy and transport infrastructure, district heating networks, energy efficiency measures and social infrastructure. Applications must be linked to the relevant territorial just transition plan to demonstrate how the project supports specific national ‘green transitions’. Each member state is reserved a part of the budget under the facility until 2025, after which any unused amount will be made available to projects across the entire EU.
While the two other pillars of the JTM provide rather broad requirements, the Just Transition Fund outlines a specific list of actions and sectors that can be supported. CDR in its broadest sense could directly or indirectly fall under multiple categories. For example, it could help funnel productive investments in SMEs and investments in the creation of new firms. On the research side, CDR can be a destination for investments in research and innovation activities. On the social side, it could accompany the upskilling and reskilling of workers and job seekers. Finally, on the infrastructure side, it could be applied to upgrade district heating networks, especially combined heat and power plants, to unlock investments in the deployment of climate technology and systems, and for investments in renewable energy.
Evaluating the Just Transition Mechanism
Being the EU’s flagship mechanism to ensure no one is left behind in the green transition, the JTM’s main lever consists of requiring the development of territorial just transition plans. These are intended to ensure a high level of ambition whilst allowing civil society and the affected publics to have visibility over the just transition plan. There is also a certain degree of technical assistance provided for local public authorities, mostly through the Just Transition Platform, a one-stop shop platform providing information on all aspects of the JTM.
However, the JTM has several potential drawbacks. Firstly, the JTM might inadvertently reward countries that have delayed climate action by providing funds to member states with carbon-intensive industries that would not have decarbonisation plans otherwise. Secondly, the initial budget of the JTF was set at about EUR 44 billion, whereas it has now been downsized to EUR 17.5 billion, which will inevitably mean that fewer projects will be supported. Thirdly, the vision of fairness set out in the JTM and the European Green Deal in general has been criticised as a short-term, dirigiste solution to systemic challenges. Only specific sectors and regions are included, whereas other meaningful activities involving other types of actors and regions are left out of the JTM. Finally, the JTM’s operationalisation of climate justice is focused on those who are adversely affected by the transition, rather than on those who are adversely affected by climate change at large.
European Green Deal communication and announcement of the Just Transition Mechanism
Commission adopts the Just Transition Fund Proposal
Commission adopts the Public Sector Loan Facility Proposal
Launch of the Just Transition Platform
Adoption of the InvestEU Guidelines, including guidelines for the Just Transition Special Scheme
Entry into force of the Just Transition Fund Regulation
Entry into force of the Public Sector Loan Facility Regulation
Regulation (Eu) 2021/1056 Of The European Parliament And Of The Council Of 24 June 2021 Establishing The Just Transition Fund and Regulation (Eu) 2021/1229 Of The European Parliament And Of The Council Of 14 July 2021 On The Public Sector Loan Facility Under The Just Transition Mechanism
Just Transition Mechanism
In a Nutshell
As part of the European Green Deal, the EU has set out legally binding climate objectives to (1) cut domestic net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030 and to (2) reach climate neutrality by 2050. The European Climate Law provides the legal framework to support these objectives. The law also requires the European Commission to propose a 2040 climate target for the EU in the first half of 2024, accompanied by an indicative EU GHG budget for the period 2030-2050.
The Commission is at the early stages of this process and has opened a public consultation to guide its assessment of a suitable 2040 climate target, inform the analysis of the sectoral transformations needed to meet this target, and provide input on the possible evolution of climate policy instruments beyond 2030. It will also lay out preferences between establishing separate or joint targets for emissions reductions and carbon removal – the two central components of net zero.
Carbon Gap advocates for the EU to set an explicit 2040 net emission reduction target of 95% compared to 1990, in line with advice by the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change. This target will be the key milestone that the Union commits to reaching on the path to climate neutrality by or before 2050.
- Call for evidence for an impact assessment on the new EU climate target for 2040
- Letter from academics and climate experts urging European legislators to adopt separate targets for carbon removals
- 2023 — the Year of Shaping EU’s 2040 Climate Target, by Eve Tamme
- Scientific advice for the determination of an EU-wide 2040 climate target and a greenhouse gas budget for 2030–2050
- Carbon removal: the key to getting the 2040 climate target right
Key Institutional Stakeholders
European CommissionDG Climate Action (CLIMA), Unit A.2: Foresight, Economic Analysis & Modelling DG Climate Action (CLIMA), Unit A.1: Strategic Coordination, Legal & Institutional DG Energy (ENER), Unit A.4: Chief Economist Team DG Energy (ENER), Unit A.1: Interinstitutional, policy coordination and planning
Additional StakeholdersThe European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change will inform the Commission’s assessment of a suitable 2040 climate target
In a Nutshell
The Directive for the Substantiation of Explicit Environmental Claims (Green Claims Directive) is a legislative proposal that aims to address and reduce greenwashing in consumer-facing commercial practices. It establishes minimum requirements on the substantiation and communication of voluntary environmental claims and labels that are not otherwise banned under the Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition.
To make green claims (including climate-related claims) about the environmental footprint of their products, services, and operations, companies will need to comprehensively demonstrate environmental impact and performance by submitting recognised scientific evidence and the latest technical knowledge. The Directive establishes specific requirements for distinguishing claims on environmental performance from common practice, legal obligations, and from other traders or products.
Environmental claims and labelling schemes will be verified by independent accredited bodies before being put on the market. Member states will nominate a competent national authority to supervise this process, monitor and verify the claims and substantiations on a regular basis. This monitoring will help the Commission evaluate where more specific requirements are needed and implement delegated acts accordingly.
Climate-related claims such as net zero or carbon neutrality claims based on carbon credits use, including carbon removal, fall under the remit of this Directive. To substantiate such claims companies must report offsetting and emissions data separately, specify whether offsetting relates to emissions reductions or carbon removals, and explain accurately the accounting methodology applied. Once approved and when communicating to consumers, climate-related claims must be accompanied by additional information detailing the extent of reliance on offsetting and whether it is based on emissions reductions or removals.
What's on the Horizon?
The Green Claims proposal by the European Commission is currently being discussed within the European Parliament and the Council, with the aim to come to an agreement on their positions as part of the ordinary legislative procedure, before entering interinstitutional negotiations.
2023-2024: The European Parliament and the Council will develop their positions separately.
- The Council adopted its negotiating mandate regarding the ECGT Directive on 3 May. The mandate outlines the Council’s position on this directive which would lay the foundation for the Green Claims Directive.
- The European Parliament on adopted its position on 11 May 2023, setting stricter conditions than the Commission proposal.
- On 19 September 2023, the Council and the Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the ECGT Directive, banning carbon neutrality claims for products and services based on carbon offsetting, and setting stricter requirements for organisations to make claims based on future environmental performance. Complementing the Directive on Empowering Consumers, the Green Claims Directive will provide further guidance on the conditions to make substantiated environmental claims.
- On 17 January 2024, the European Parliament adopted the provisional agreement on the ECGT Directive. After the Council adopts the final text, the directive will be published in the Official Journal of the EU, and member states will have 24 months to transpose it into national law.
Green Claims Directive (GCD):
- The ENVI and IMCO Committee (joint committees responsible) adopted their report on 14 February 2024, with a view for the Parliament to adopt the report during the March 2024 plenary.
- The Council aims to adopt this file’s general approach on 17 June 2024.
- 2024- 2025: Following trilogues between EU institutions, the Directive is expected to be formally adopted and transposed by member states.
The Green Claims Directive complements the Empowering Consumers Directive published by the European Commission on 30 March 2022 within the EU. Together, they aim to improve the circularity of the EU’s economy and achieve climate neutrality. They set requirements to substantiate environmental claims made to consumers and other commercial practices.
Apart from the French ministerial decree n°2022-538, the Green Claims Directive is a first of its kind in the specificity with which it regulates environmental claims and addresses climate-neutrality claims. The French decree regulates advertising claims based on emission compensation projects. It has different requirements surrounding emissions reporting, compensation data, and net zero plans.
The Green Claims Directive proposal addresses the issue of greenwashing, increasingly prevalent in recent years. It seeks to standardise environmental claims and labels to improve transparency and credibility for consumers. The proposal aims to use delegated and implementing acts in the future to address substantiation methodologies for specific product groups and evolving commercial practices.
The preamble of the proposal states that climate-related claims are prone to being unclear and misleading, as they are often based on offsetting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through carbon credits of low environmental integrity and credibility, generated outside the company’s value chain and calculated based on methodologies that vary widely in transparency, accuracy, and consistency. Offsetting can also deter traders from reducing emissions in their own operations and value chains.
However, credible net zero claims have the potential to incentivise and drive the development of safe, just and sustainable carbon removals to transition towards real climate neutrality. Claims based on offsetting must be regulated through a robust and science-based system to prevent greenwashing.
Room for improvement
Unfortunately, the Green Claims Directive as it currently stands does not establish the necessary measures to do so:
- The Directive does not align with scientific consensus as it allows offsetting through emissions reductions and avoidance to substantiate carbon neutrality claims. The IPCC’s definition of net zero is clear: balancing emissions with physical removals. Accordingly, offsetting projects that avoid emissions, but do not physically remove and store carbon, must be barred from use in substantiating claims about net climate impacts.
- The proposal rightly requires companies to report GHG emissions separately from offsetting data, to disclose the share of their total emissions that are addressed through offsetting and whether these come from emission reductions or removals. This isn’t enough to monitor whether the claimed climate impacts are real. There is a need for more extensive disclosure on the types of carbon credits companies are purchasing (avoidance, reduction, removals), which emissions they are claiming compensation for, and the methodologies used to ensure integrity and correct accounting.
- The proposal allows all types of offsetting without any clear criteria for which emissions they can compensate for, nor which climate claims they can substantiate. However, not all carbon storage is equal in terms of capacity, duration or reversal risk. This means that long-lived fossil fuel emissions otherwise impossible to abate can only be balanced by removals with high-durability storage in the geosphere where the carbon came from. Lower-durability removal and storage of carbon into the biosphere must be accelerated for its own sake, to halt and reverse the loss of ecosystems and natural carbon stocks but cannot be eligible to compensate for fossil fuel emissions. Failing to enshrine this non-fungibility principle in EU law would allow companies to continue offsetting their long-lived emissions through shorter-term carbon storage with higher risks of reversal.
- Although the Directive encourages companies to use offsetting only for residual emissions, it provides no robust definition for what constitutes these residual or ‘hard-to-abate’ emissions. Without a sector-specific and measurable definition, companies can weaken emissions cutting efforts by manipulating the boundary between ‘emissions that must be reduced’ and ‘emissions that physical removals can offset’. The EU will need to establish a transparent process for classifying emissions as difficult-to-decarbonise.
- The proposal excludes from its scope environmental claims and labels substantiated by rules in the Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF). However, the proposal for the CRCF has no rules for claim substantiation. Instead, the Green Claims Directive could establish guardrails for legitimate net zero claims, which could be substantiated through the purchase of high-quality carbon removal credits certified under the CRCF.
The EU Circular Economy Action Plan sets out the plan to support the EU’s transition to a circular economy, including by protecting consumers
Impact assessment and public consultation on substantiating green claims
European Parliament resolution ‘Towards a more sustainable single market for business and consumers’
European Commission publishes the proposal for a Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition (ECGT)
European Commission publishes the proposal for Green Claims Directive (GCD)
European Parliament adopts its position on the ECGT Directive
Deadline to provide feedback to the Commission on the GCD legislative proposal
The Council and the Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the ECGT Directive
The EU Parliament adopted the ECGT Directive
Joint report of the lead ENVI and IMCO Committees on the GCD adopted
European Parliament plenary vote on the GCD joint report
Council to adopt its general approach on GCD
- Climate claims: what’s the latest in EU policy? – Carbon Gap
- Carbon credits and compensation claims: the state of the VCM – Carbon Gap
- The EU Circular Economy Action Plan, European Commission
- Annual ‘sweep’: Screening of websites for ‘greenwashing’, European Commission
- Impact Assessment Report on Empowering Consumers, European Commission
- Recommendation on the use of the Environmental Footprint method, European Commission
- Strengthening climate-related claims: Carbon Gap response to the Green Claims proposal
- Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor 2022, NewClimate Institute and Carbon Market Watch
- Greenwashing Factsheet, BEUC
- Sustainable consumption briefing, EPRS
Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims (Green Claims Directive)