Multi-level governance promotes collaborative decision-making, inclusiveness, and the effective use of resources and expertise across different levels and sectors of governments and society. It has two main components: a vertical one – involving different administrative levels; and a horizontal one – involving different sectors of society. According to Article 11 of the Governance Regulation, Member States should implement multi-level governance processes when designing, implementing and monitoring national energy and climate policy (namely Climate and Energy Dialogues).
Within the NECPlatform project, we supported six Member States (Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Italy, Portugal and Romania) in setting up such dialogues, with mixed results. Despite our best efforts, the implementation of the first round of CED platforms in the six Member States has not always gone smoothly or been straightforward. If, on the one hand, local and regional governments and other stakeholders have generally accepted with great enthusiasm to participate on the CED dialogues in all 6 countries, on the other hand, the national level has been more difficult to involve, with varying degrees of acceptance.
The reasons why this happens are many and vary case by case. However, in generic terms we noticed that national governments are accustomed to working with a methodology that foresees a top-down approach only, and generally tend to work against European deadlines, rather than perceive the need of having long-term plans and strategies as a structured and continuous process. In some cases, then, the NECP is seen as a bureaucratic tool rather than a political priority. Moreover, different ministries tend to think in silos, so that priorities are competing instead of building on one another. Furthermore, from our analysis we observed that the non-binding nature of the NECP trajectory and the long-term horizon of the reduction targets leads national governments to dedicate little focus on the implementation of these targets and the necessary measures. The main challenge for any national planning exercise is to put measures into practice. However, this should be done consistently, in a concerted manner (including other stakeholders and sub-national authorities) and not according to political convenience.
To achieve a better implementation of Article 11, we drafted a list of suggestions to the European Commission, recommending them to:
- Reiterate even more strongly a better implementation of Article 11 by Member States in its assessments of the draft and final updated NECPs.
- Anticipate the assessments with a written recommendation to Member States stressing the mandatory aspect and benefits of multi-level dialogues, to make the best use of the year between the submission of the draft updated NECP (June 2023) and the final updated NECP (June 2024).
- Pay as much attention as possible to the quality of the dialogues in its evaluation and distinguish between well-structured and robust processes versus consultations made at the end of the process when the plans are a done deal.
- Push Member States to establish such Climate and Energy Dialogues as structured long-term advisory groups not only limited to the development of National Energy Climate Plans, but encompassing all future energy and climate laws and strategies.