Make them Abide: Strengthening the ESR Compliance Rules

Climate action


The Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) sets binding 2030 emissions reductions targets for the EU and its
member states in the road transport, buildings, agriculture, waste and small industry sectors. As
such, it is essential to ensure that countries put in place the needed climate measures to clean up
these sectors. But if binding national targets are not supported by a strong compliance
framework, they become mere suggestions. T&E and CAN Europe have conducted an in-depth
evaluation of the compliance framework of the ESR to identify the shortcomings and the solutions
at hand.

In theory, the Commission controls and assesses compliance with the ESR provisions through 2
processes: i) an annual preliminary assessment of progress towards meeting the targets that can
trigger a process requiring the member state to adjust its course of action, and ii) in-depth
compliance checks every 5 years which can trigger automatic sanctions. In practice, the rules
governing both of these processes lack the stringency that creates a real deterrent against
failing to meet national climate targets.

Observations of past compliance with national climate targets led to the conclusion that many
member states did not have in place climate and energy measures adequate to meet their annual
ESR obligations. In 2020, 3 countries overshot their emissions limits even after the pandemic brought
down emissions. Forecasts for the future reveal that member states will need to significantly step up
their climate action in order to meet the now higher ESR targets. Weak enforcement makes that
highly uncertain. While any risk of national non-compliance in 2030 – which would have
disastrous effects on the climate – should be prevented.

T&E and CAN Europe suggest strengthening the compliance rules of the ESR through the
following interventions:

● Firstly, it would be necessary to increase the transparency and the bindingness of the
corrective process. This would ensure that member states commit to adjust their course of
action with good quality corrective action plans.

● Secondly, the consequences of not complying with the ESR should become more tangible
and credible in order to create a real deterrent effect, for example by providing sanctions of a
financial nature.

● Finally, to ensure that governments take the pathway towards decarbonisation seriously, the
scrutiny of national action by civil society becomes particularly essential. Especially the
inclusion of the right for the public to bring governments to national court if they breach their
ESR or climate and energy planning obligations, is an essential instrument to make member
states accountable, foremost, to their citizens.

Download the full briefing text here