COP26: Process, outcomes & what this means for advisory bodies

To get a deeper understanding of what happened at COP26 in Glasgow, the EEAC Working Group on Climate Change and Energy organized an online policy briefing for all colleagues of the EEAC Network.

With this policy briefing, the Working Group provided the colleagues with experts views on the outcomes of COP26, the negotiation process leading up to these outcomes, as well as providing the audience with an analysis of what the process and outcomes reached in Glasgow might mean for advisory bodies like gathered in the EEAC Network.

We were pleased that Lola Vallejo (Climate Programme Director at IDDRI), Bastiaan Hassing (Head of the delegation to the UNFCCC, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy) and Anna-Katharina Hornidge, (WBGU) shared their views with us.

Latest publication: The role of hydrogen in climate protection: quality rather than quantity

The German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) published an English-language summary of the conclusions and recommendations of its statement on the role of hydrogen in climate protection that was first published in German this summer.  In its report, the SRU recommends that all efforts should be focused on the market ramp-up for green hydrogen made from wind and solar energy. Even for a transitional period, policy-makers should not support fossil-based hydrogen. Read More

New factsheet: Planetary Health, what we need to talk about?

The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) issued a factsheet, entitled “Planetary Health: What we need to talk about”. In this latest publication, the WBGU asks the question whether the prerequisites for healthy living are taken seriously enough? Or whether civilization systematically is jeopardizing health? Read More

29th EEAC Annual Conference: what did we discuss?

As a whole, the EEAC’s 29th Annual Conference addressed the twin challenges of sustainable development and the digital transformation. The digital transformation and artificial intelligence offer many exciting opportunities for addressing climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution of air, water, and soil, as well as health pandemics; educational needs; and other sustainability issues. Digital technologies and artificial intelligence enable us to collect and analyze information far more comprehensively and with a speed that is leading to major changes across sectors. Potentials for efficiency improvements, enhanced monitoring, and transparency of data are enormous. These opportunities have been embraced at the European level with the Green Deal, National Recovery and Resilience Policies, and the digitalization Agenda 2030.

At the same time, however, the conference pointed out various problems. Existing business models tied to digitization too often ignore privacy norms and basic ethics as their primary goal is increasing profits. There is a lack of integration of sustainability into digitalization policies and programs. Adam Smith’s free hand has led to very large ecological footprints. This reality calls for more integrative, collaborative, and participatory approaches so that the twin challenges can both be addressed. Inclusivity is critical to enhancing sustainability, both in urban and rural communities. Care must be taken to strengthen capacities, access, and skills for the digital and sustainability transitions.

Governance of the digital transformation should be broadly participatory, protect European norms of privacy and democracy, and advance sustainability. Controls are needed so that discrimination and abuses can be prevented, privacy protected (privacy by design) and distributive democracy promoted. Governance structures and processes will need monitoring and flexibility so that they can be improved over time and be robust against unforeseen developments. New frameworks and understandings are emerging at the European and national levels, but the work is just beginning and much more needs to be done to advance the twin transitions and European leadership in these areas that are so critical to our joint future.

Day III: Governing the transformation in the new Digital World

Day three of the EEAC Conference had the sub-titled, Governing the Transformation in the new Digital World. Alex Gutierez Margarit moderated a panel addressing the digital era and concerns about the absence of ethical considerations in existing business models. Simona Levi, Founder of XNET; Gemma Caldon Clavell, CEO of Eticas Consulting; and Anne Marie McGauren from the Irish National Economic and Social Council discussed their concerns about how currently digitalization and artificial intelligence are not only bringing about positive developments. They are enhancing discrimination against women, excluding the perspectives of minority groups, empowering a subset of actors, and being misused to promote particular interests. This occurs as a result of how algorithms are designed and with their use tend to reinforce patterns. They warned that more needs to be done to establish appropriate regulatory frameworks, establish privacy by design, and promote distributive democracy. Andrea Rodriguez, from the Global Cities Program, Barcelona Center for International Affairs discussed her work to integrate minimal ethical basics into European regulatory frameworks. These minimal ethical foundations include sustainability and participation as well as human rights and security. It matters who designs and controls applications, thus, inclusive participatory inputs are critical.

Day II. The twin challenge: towards a green and digital Europe

During the second day of the EEAC Annual Conference the relation between the green and digital transitions took center stage. Four experts representing advisory councils, think-tanks and the European Economic and Social Committee shared their views.

The morning session was opened by Pallas Agterberg from the Council on the Environment and Infrastructure. In her speech, Ms. Agterberg touched upon the role governments should pursue to advance both the green and digital transformations, with special attention to the role of digital platforms. On behalf of Ecologic Institute, Aaron Best provided a critique of economic theories suggesting that the invisible hand of the market had left a visible ecological footprint and should be replaced with coordinated and integrative approaches.  He zoomed-in on the complex and intertwined relationship between the digital transformation and the need to battle climate change.

Following an exchange on the role of national and regional governments, the speakers discussed the  EU’s emerging efforts at an integration of digitalization and sustainability. On behalf of the European Economic and Social Committee, Peter Schmidt (President of the European Economic and Social Committee-NATS Section) shared his views on the opportunities associated with digitalization for rural areas but also the need to not leave communities behind. Thorfinn Stainfort from the Institute for European Environmental Policy pointed out problematic gaps in the integration of the green and digital transformations in a variety of EU policies, including the EU Green Deal and the National Recovery and Resilience Plans, and the problems visible in their implementation.

The final day of the conference (Friday November 19th 2021),  will focus on ethics, democratic values and inclusion in the digital era. With a round table and live interview the third day promises to be highly informative. The conference recordings will be made available in the next weeks. Click here to consult the PowerPoint Presentations of day I and day II.

Day I: Digital transformation in the Anthropocene

Today, November 17th 2021, we kicked-off the 29th EEAC Annual Conference, hosted virtually from Barcelona. After the institutional welcome by – among others – the President of the government of Catalonia Pere Aragonès i Garcia and the Secretary for Climate Action of the Catalan government Anna Barnadas-López, three experts set the scene, talking about digital transformation in the Anthropocene.

In the first address of the day, Marcel Dorsch  (advisor for digital transformation to Dirk Messner, President of the German Environment Agency)) touched upon the relationship between the green and digital transformations (please consult his PowerPoint presentation Here). Asun Lera St.Clair shared her views on the ethical and social implications of the digital transformation, including the application of Artificial Intelligence Systems (please consult here PowerPoint presentation Here.)

The third and final contribution, setting the scene from an EU perspective, was provided by Martin Harris-Hess, representing the European Commission (DG Growth). In his contribution, Harris-Hess talked about the initiatives that  the European Commission deployed to enhance the twin-transitions, and the initiatives being taken to limit any negative social and ethical implications of this digital transition.

We will continue on Thursday November 28th 2021 discussing the role governments and the European Union are pursuing to advance both the green and digital transformations (the twin-transitions) while mitigating against unintended consequences.  The complex and intertwined relationship between the digital transformation and the need to battle climate change will be a key focus. The recordings of Day I will be made available soon.






Latest publication: Carbon Budgets for Ireland

A carbon budget represents the total amount of emissions that may be emitted in the State during a five-year period, measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. It is calculated on an economy-wide basis. As part of its work, the Climate Change Advisory Council of Ireland (CCAC)  is responsible for proposing three five-year economy-wide carbon budgets, covering the periods 2021-2025, 2026-2030 and 2031-2035, to assist the State in achieving its national climate objectives and greenhouse gas emissions targets agreed by the European Union.

The first three carbon budgets cover the following five-year periods: 2021 to 2025, 2026 to 2030, and 2031 to 2035 (although the budget for the third period is provisional). All greenhouse gas emissions and all relevant sectors are included in the carbon budgets.

They are as follows:

  • 2021-2025: 295 Mt COeq. an average of -4.8% for the first budget period.
  • 2026-2030: 200 Mt COeq. an average of -8.3% for the second budget period.
  • 2031-2035: 151 Mt COeq. an average of -3.5% for the third provisional budget.


carbon budgets figure 5

The above graph represents the proposed carbon budgets in the context of recent historic emissions, and the EPA “With Additional Measures” projections of emissions based on the implementation of the 2019 Climate Action Plan.

In 2018, Ireland’s emissions could be broken down by sector as follows:

Ireland  EU
Energy 54.2% 82.3%
Industrial Processes 4.7% 9.4%
Agriculture 32.6% 11.0%
Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry 7.0% -6.4%
Waste 1.4% 3.7%

What happens next?

The carbon budget programme is presented to the Oireachtas by the Minister of the Environment, Climate and Communications.

Once adopted by the Oireachtas, the Minister will use each carbon budget to prepare sectoral emissions ceilings for relevant sectors of the economy. On final agreement of these sectoral emissions ceilings by Government it will then be for sectors to determine which mitigation options are best placed to serve their needs in terms of delivering on their new commitments.

Every year, the Climate Change Advisory Council will undertake a review of progress made against these carbon budgets. The review will assess reductions achieved in GHG emissions, compliance with the carbon budget, and every sectoral emissions ceiling for that period.

The Council’s Technical Report on Carbon Budgets  sets out in more detail how these various considerations were taken into account.