The fight against climate change is, by its very nature, a fight that transcends national boundaries. In order to achieve our climate goals, develop new clean technology, deploy the best solutions and drive our economies towards a more sustainable path, action at EU level is needed. EU action can exploit significant economies of scale, pull together resources to reach critical mass, and contribute to strengthening the EU in the international arena.

The EU budget makes a crucial contribution towards the fight against climate change. Over the course of the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework, the EU delivered on its ambition of spending 20% of available funds on climate-related measures.

What do we do?

In the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework, the Commission implemented an innovative approach to dedicate resources to the fight against climate change: ‘climate mainstreaming’. This requires programmes in all policy areas to consider climate priorities in their design, implementation and evaluation phases. With a target of contributing 20% of the EU budget expenditure to climate goals, all the programmes are designed to implement two types of measures.

  • Adaptation. This involves finding solutions to and ensuring preparedness for adverse effects of climate change, enhancing resilience, taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage such effects can cause, and taking advantage of any opportunities that may arise.
  • Mitigation. This refers to actions that limit the magnitude of long-term climate change. Climate change mitigation generally involves reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.

In this context, ‘climate proofing’ is the practice of making sure that buildings and infrastructure are adapted to cope with the changes in the environment. This is applied across the EU budget in the programmes supporting infrastructure. In addition, to guarantee that the EU budget financing does not have a harmful effect on the environment, an ‘exclusion list’ of projects that cannot be financed is also included in the common provisions regulation.

In the context of the new multiannual financial framework, the Commission has improved its approach to climate mainstreaming, including through:

  • increasing the overall target for the contribution to climate mainstreaming and including targets in the relevant legislation;
  • embedding the EU budget action in the European Green Deal policy framework, through the adoption of the biodiversity strategy and the farm-to-fork strategy;
  • enhancing the climate responsiveness of the budget for programmes that do not directly tackle the climate challenge, through reinforced climate proofing and the application of the ‘do no significant harm’ principle;
  • a strong shift from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s ‘Rio markers’, which are intent-based, to the EU ‘climate markers’, which are instead result-based.

How much do we spend?

climate contribution MFF 2014-2020

To track the EU budget expenditure, the Commission uses the EU climate coefficients, based on the internationally recognised methodology of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Rio markers. The methodology consists of assigning a coefficient of 0%, 40% or 100% to each intervention to reflect the extent to which climate considerations have been integrated into its design. These markers are assigned at different levels of granularity (e.g. at the level of a project rather than an objective or strand or, in some cases, the overall programme) depending on information and data availability constraints. For the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework, efforts are ongoing to reach a comparable level of fine granularity in the application of the EU climate markers across all programmes.

In 2021 the Commission is continuing to revise and update all the data available, including further consolidating existing data and applying a more granular methodology where possible.

For the 2014-2020 period, EUR 216 billion of the EU budget was dedicated to the fight against climate change, i.e. 20.15%.

Some examples of what we achieved

Under Horizon 2020

  • Sustainable and resilient production of food, wine and oil. This project designed a climate services prototype to build more resilient, efficient and sustainable agriculture and food systems. Although it focused on three key crops in the Mediterranean area (grapes, olives and durum wheat), the prototype can be used in other sectors. The co-production of climate services for East Africa project co-developed dedicated climate services for the water, energy and food security sectors with stakeholders and end users, to enhance their ability to plan for and adapt to seasonal climate fluctuations in East Africa. The services will potentially reach 365 million people in 11 countries.
  • Urban climate resilience. GrowGreen supported nature-based solutions for urban climate resilience, from co-design to co-management, with contributions to climate strategies in city case studies, such as the city of Manchester in the United Kingdom.
  • Climate impacts beyond Europe. This project identifies how the risks of climate change to countries, economies and peoples beyond Europe might cascade into Europe. It also looks into possible mitigation and adaptation efforts.
  • Too much or too little water. The ‘bridging the gap for innovations in disaster resilience’ project supported innovations in climate change adaptation, bridging the gap between innovators and end users in resilience to floods, droughts and extreme weather.

Under the space programme

  • The Copernicus Climate Change Service works together with businesses across the globe to turn raw climate data into sector-specific information aimed at users within the field, such as businesses, researchers and policymakers. One of these projects is the global biodiversity service, which aims to support those working to preserve species, to protect the areas that are most climate sensitive, to increase the resilience of ecosystems and to reduce biodiversity loss around the world by providing the information needed to create plans to sustain ecosystems in present and future climate conditions.

Under cohesion policy

  • By 2019, an increase of over 2 000 MWh in additional capacity of renewable energy production had been achieved.
  • Over 285 000 additional households were able to achieve an improved energy consumption classification with the help of regional funding.
  • A decrease of over 1.2 billion kWh in annual primary energy consumption by public buildings was achieved.
  • By 2019, a reduction of over 2.9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year had been achieved.

Under Erasmus+

The ‘Green living in the rural area’ training course was designed, to empower youth workers and their organisations to support social and environmental responsibility, saving and optimising resources. The project trains youth workers to reuse and recycle materials and equips them with the skills to act as multipliers in their own organisations. The main objectives are to raise participants’ awareness of sustainable development in rural areas and of ways of reusing and recycling materials; to provide participants with the knowledge, skills and competence to reuse wood and other materials to build a tree house; to encourage the participants’ entrepreneurial spirit; and to foster creativity, leadership skills, innovative attitudes and environmental responsibility in participants, so that they can act as multipliers of the knowledge acquired in the training course.

In relation to the external dimension

The EU fulfilled its pledge to provide a EUR 10 million financial contribution to the Adaptation Fund – one of the international climate funds established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, thus contributing to the global efforts to address climate change in the most vulnerable countries of the world. Furthermore, the EU continued to provide support for climate action to developing countries through its flagship initiative, the global climate change alliance+.

Climate-related administrative expenditure

Climate-related administrative expenditure is not accounted for in the mainstreaming estimates. The European Commission is committed to sustainability. Thus, through the eco-management and audit scheme system, the Commission implements a monitoring programme to assess, measure, monitor and reduce the environmental impact of its daily activities. The Commission has achieved significant results, for example the following (results refer to the Brussels site during the 2005-2019 period, for more details see the Commission’s environmental statement and the brochure on the Commission’s Environmental Performance):

  • energy for buildings: – 65% (MWh/person),
  • CO2 emissions for buildings: – 86% (tonnes/person),
  • office paper: – 71% (sheets/person/day),
  • water use: – 58% (m3/person),
  • non-hazardous waste: – 38% (tonnes/person)
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