The place of climate change impacts in the European Commission’s impact assessment system

2012 EEEN Forum / Evaluation

Valentine van Gameren, IGEAT – ULB

This contribution discusses how the impacts of European policy proposals on climate change are taken into account through the impact assessment (IA) system of the European Commission. Our analysis is based on an evaluation of fourteen selected IA reports. These reports deal with policy initiatives more or less linked to climate change con­cerns, were prepared by five different responsi­ble Directorates-General (AGRI, TREN, RDT, ENTR, DEV) and stagger from 2005 to 2009. The used methodology is composed from a content analysis of these IA reports as well as inter­views with several members of the European Commission. Two assumptions were at the basis of this study. Firstly, we supposed that impacts on climate change would be taken into account in IA reports of policy initiatives related to this topic. This assumption was based on two points: on the one hand, the increasing concern about climate change in the European policy agenda and, on the other hand, the mission of sustainable development integration allocated to the European Commission’s IA system. Secondly, we expected that the impacts on climate change would be better evaluated in the IA reports in which DG ENV was involved during the IA process. This second assumption was based on evaluations of the IA system that formulated this recommendation in order to take correctly into account the environmental impacts. According to our results all analysed IA reports integrate the concern of climate change but with remarkable quality differences. However, contrary to our assump­tion, no correlation was found between this level of quality and the involvement from the DG ENV in the process. Other potential factors of influence were tested (DG responsible, year, juridical kind of the policy initiative, consultation of environmental stakeholders and presence of an advice from the IA Board). Excepted for the DG responsible, no solid correlations were found by our analysis. Finally, other factors were evoked in the course of the study but were not tested. These are the timing of the IA process, the level of ‘openness’ of the assessed proposal, the teams charged of the IA and the trainings offered to civil servants in this field. Eventually, some lessons of good practices were drawn with regards to our observations.

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