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Missing deadline on fossil fuel subsidies mars otherwise promising EU Environment Action Programme

02 December 2021
by WWF -- last modified 02 December 2021

After months of negotiations, the European institutions last night agreed to strengthen the EU’s next Environment Action Programme. However, they missed a critical opportunity to set an end date for public finance for fossil fuels and environmentally harmful activities, despite EU leaders having repeatedly stated their intention to phase such finance out.


The 8th Environment Action Programme (EAP) sets the objectives for EU environmental policy up to 2030, and lays down the conditions to achieve them.

"The EU has failed the first post-COP test on firmly committing to a deadline for phasing out fossil fuel and other environmentally harmful subsidies. This is even more shameful because this deal is otherwise ambitious and takes big strides on strengthening future environment policy making", said Rebecca Humphries, Senior Public Affairs Officer at WWF European Policy Office. "Despite paying lip service to the need to phase out fossil fuel subsidies for more than two decades, national governments and the Commission refused to put a target date as called for by Parliament."

The European Parliament nonetheless managed to secure the commitment that a deadline for phasing out fossil fuels will be proposed and that it should be in line with 1.5°C. WWF now urges the Commission to come forward with a proposal for a legally binding deadline for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies without delay.

More positively, the 8th EAP includes provisions for putting human and planetary wellbeing - rather than GDP growth - at the heart of EU policy making, and advancing towards a 'wellbeing economy'.

"For the first time, the EU recognises the need to shift towards a wellbeing economy. EU institutions have committed to ensuring policy-making is guided by indicators which give a better picture of social and environmental progress than only GDP growth. This was almost prevented by a last ditch move by the European Commission to stick with the status quo to the detriment of our environment and our wellbeing,"  continued Rebecca Humphries.

As part of this shift, the 8th EAP also requires that the cost of inaction on the climate and biodiversity crisis needs to be considered by policy makers when making new proposals, and progress towards the 8th EAP's objectives will now have to be debated annually by the EU institutions, offering the opportunity to step up actions when necessary.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament had delivered a forward looking position - significantly improving on the Commission's weak proposal and the Council's mandate.  "Many of these improvements can be attributed to the strong work by the Parliament and its negotiators, as well as the willingness of the Slovenian presidency to move the Council's position closer to the Parliament's," concluded Humphries.

WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. The European Policy Office contributes to this by advocating for strong EU environmental policies on sustainable development, nature conservation, climate and energy, marine protection, sustainable finance and external action.