#DYK: climate action is supported
with major EU investments 
in the regions

1. Why track climate action?

To reach the EU agreed climate and energy targets by 2020, the European Commission committed itself to  support climate action with a target of investing at least 20% of the EU budget 2014-2020. That political commitment is part of a wider effort to mainstream climate action and contribute to the efforts to mitigate climate breakdown and adapt our natural and human built environment and economy to the expected impact of global heating. 
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund were seen from the beginning as important contributors to the overall EU tracking target given the scope of their objectives and the scale of their total budgets.  Cohesion policy funding is delivering  EUR 52.5 billion in EU budget investment in climate action in the 2014-2020 period (as at 31/12/2020)
The financial tracking is the first step in delivering results.  In addition to specific thematic concentration targets (input), climate relevant thematic objectives with "investment priorities" were included in the relevant legislation to lead to the definition of specific interventions (actions with outputs) and policy objectives (with policy result indicators) relevant for climate actions.  See this story on tracking reductions in GHG emissions.   

2. How do we track financial inputs in cohesion policy? 

EU countries provide information on the support for climate change objectives (financial input) using a methodology based on the categorisation of investment action under each of the cohesion policy funds. The methodology consist of assigning a specific "climate coefficient" to the financial support provided under the funds at a level which reflects the contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation goals. Three weighting are assigned as follows (with ERDF examples of the investment categories):
  • 100% - in cases where the support makes a significant climate contribution (i.e. sustainable energy, climate related risk prevention, climate related RTDI, ...) 
  • 40% - in case of a moderate contribution (clean urban transport, rail, intermodal and other public transport, ...)
  • 0% - in cases where the support does not contribute or where the contribution is insignificant (most codes).
In the case of the ERDF and the Cohesion Fund weightings, they are attached to "intervention fields" in the categorisation information system; for the European Social Fund the "ESF secondary theme" is used.

3. An overview of climate actions planned and progress

The first chart below shows, by year, the total cumulative planned overall EU budget contribution from each of the cohesion policy funds in the period 2014-2020 (re/programming).  The figure of more than EUR 52.5 billion (EUR 51.4 for ERDF/CF) allocated to climate action represents the planned EU investments after the application of the 100%-40%-0% weightings. 
Charts 3.2 and 3.3 show the reported progress in project selection (blue bars) and actual expenditure by selected projects (yellow bars). 
TIPS: click on "view source data" for a full screen view and to link and download the API enabled dataset; use the filter menu to see progress by fund, country and over time.

3.1 Cohesion policy planned EU budget amounts

At the end of 2019 the share of 2014-2020 ERDF/CF total EU planned support allocated to climate action was 21.1% of the EU budget of the 2 funds (EUR 55.3 billion). By the end of 2020, the total planned amount had fallen to EUR 52.5 bn (with the ERDF/CF planned climate action share now at 19.6% - EUR 51.4 billion out of EUR 261.9 billion).  This was principally as a result of the reallocations linked to the 2020 CRII/CRII+ initiative to support the coronavirus pandemic response (i.e. reallocations to reinforce the immediate public health response and support to SMEs). The CRII/CRII+ initiative did not introduce extra EU financing but opened the possibility to reallocated EU funding - find out more.
Under the REACT-EU initiative the objective is that 25% of the additional EU financing be committed to climate action, which should redress the reduction in climate action seen in 2020 linked to the immediate pandemic response.

3.2 Climate tracking implementation - timeseries

3.3 Climate tracking implementation - by Fund 

4. Which are the main ERDF/CF climate relevant investment? 

For the ERDF and Cohesion fund the most important intervention field by financial allocations (after applying the weightings) are presented in the chart across.
Filtering by fund you can see that energy efficiency in public building and housing stock are the biggest climate investment categories for the ERDF while for the Cohesion fund the biggest priorities are climate related risk adaptation and prevention and various rail investments.
Filtering by country you can see that priorities differ.
  • In Germany support to energy efficiency in public buildings is the biggest investment category;
  • In Poland it is clean urban transport (ERDF and Cohesion fund combined);
  • While in Spain the largest investment is in energy efficiency in the housing stock. 

- the chart across shows the top 20 fields
- drag the bar up to see other fields;
-34 field codes in the total of 123 field codes are considered to have a climate relevance and present in the dataset.

5. What about investments by Country?  

You can also access the country aggregate plans and progress, right down to specific programmes by intervention field.  Below you can use the country filter to view other countries and make comparisons of their overall progress  over time by using the year filter. It really is a detailed tracking process! 

The provision allowing a 40% weighting to otherwise zero-weighted ERDF and CF intervention fields used in Thematic Objective 4: Low carbon economy  and Thematic Objective 5: Climate change and risk prevention is not included in the calculations made in this story or in the underlying data. That leads to a minor understatement in this story.

6. What about practical examples?  

Would like to see some real life examples of the investments that have already been carried out? Then go no further than these short videos!!
More examples are available on our projects page

Wetland restoration plan for Hortobágy National Park, HU - more details
Schwerin: Towards carbon neutrality with geothermal district heating, DE -more details.

Further resources and reading

ESIF and Cohesion policy 
For more news on Cohesion Funds open data follow @RegioEvaluation or check out #CohesionOpenData on twitter.
Find more stories here.
Text: rev. 2021/02
Author: REGIO/B2 - J WALSH