For the 2021-27 period, cohesion policy funding is delivering nearly EUR 120 billion of EU investment in climate action with total investment cost reaching more that EUR 166 billion (as of April 2024). This represents a significant contribution to EU climate goals in line with the European Green Deal, to secure a sustainable path towards a climate neutral Europe.

Why does cohesion policy support climate action?

The European Climate Law adopted in 2021 writes into law the goal set out in the European Green Deal for Europe’s economy and society to become climate-neutral by 2050. It also sets the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.  To help achieve these climate goals, the EU has decided to integrate (or ‘mainstream’) climate action across the entire EU budget. Climate action also includes adaptation to climate change with the adoption by the European Commission in 2021 of a new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change. Overall, for the 2021-27 period, 30% of the EU budget will be spent on climate action.
In this framework,
  • The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund are key contributors to the overall EU target, given the scope of their objectives and the scale of their total budgets. The regulatory framework of the funds includes a commitment to support climate action with a target of investing at least 30% of the total ERDF and 37% of the Cohesion Fund resources in climate action.  
  • In addition, as a new instrument under the 2021-27 cohesion policy, the Just Transition Fund (JTF) will support the regions most affected by the negative impacts of the climate transition.
  • Resources from the JTF are therefore counted as contributing 100% to climate change objectives under the EU budget.
  • The ESF+ contribution to green skills and jobs in the green economy is also tracked. 
The impact of the climate actions supported by the ERDF and Cohesion Fund will go well beyond reducing emissions and reinforcing adaptation to climate change. The related investments will also contribute significantly to the REPowerEU objectives, delivering socio-economic benefits such as:
  • creating jobs and fostering economic activity
  • ensuring support for businesses, in particular for innovation and competitiveness
  • providing enhanced sustainable mobility solutions
  • maintaining balanced territorial development.
- Use the filters (top right of chart) to filter by member state;
- Use the buttons bottom left to toggle between the chart and a table of the underlying aggregate values;
- Export the underlying detailed filtered data from the "export data" item under the chart menu (three points at top right of chart).

An overview of planned climate actions in 2021-27

For the 2021-27 period, cohesion policy funding, including the JTF, is delivering an unprecedented amount of support to investments in climate action for Member States, regions, cities and towns. This will allow them to seize the opportunities of the transition to a climate neutral society.
The ERDF and Cohesion Fund programmes agreed with Member States for 2021-27 to allocate 33% (ERDF) and 56% (Cohesion Fund) to  climate action, which goes well beyond the minimum regulatory commitments of 30% for ERDF and 37% for the Cohesion Fund.
The major areas to receive support are:
·        energy conservation, particularly in buildings
·        boosting sustainable urban mobility
·        adaptation to climate change.
Support to renewable energy sources will represent about EUR 10.1 billion.

How do we track climate investments in cohesion policy?

EU countries provide information on the support for climate change objectives based on the categorisation of investment action under each of the cohesion policy funds. A specific "climate coefficient" is assigned to the financial support provided under the funds, at a level that reflects the contribution the expenditure will make to climate change mitigation and adaptation goals. One of the following three weightings is assigned:
·        100%: the activity is expected to make a substantial contribution to climate change mitigation or adaptation objectives in line with EU climate goals. This weighting is assigned to activities that contribute to climate objectives either directly (e.g. renewable energy, zero-emission transport or nature-based solutions) or indirectly (e.g. research and innovation, education related to clean technologies or other enabling activities).
·        40%: the activity is expected to make a non-marginal, positive contribution to climate change mitigation or adaptation objectives. The activity’s contribution to climate objectives can again be direct or indirect.
·        0%: the activity is expected to have a neutral impact on climate objectives.
ERDF and Cohesion Fund weightings are attached to "intervention fields" in the categorisation information system.
For the European Social Fund plus, the "ESF secondary theme" is used. The managing authorities of the funds at national or regional levels that choose the appropriate “intervention fields” when selecting projects to be co-funded.
Investments from the Just Transition Fund (JTF) are calculated as contributing 100% to climate change objectives.
 Tip: Use the filter (top right of chart) to filter by member state.
Which are the main climate-relevant investments?
For the ERDF and Cohesion Fund, the most important intervention field by financial allocations (after applying the weightings) are presented in the following chart.
Zooming in on the intervention fields, we see that energy efficiency in public infrastructure and clean urban transport infrastructure are the biggest climate investment categories.

Tip: Use the filter (top right of chart) to filter by member state and programme title.

What about investments by Country?

The interactive chart following displays the total ERDF and Cohesion Fund EU planned investments and the amounts that are tracked as contributing to climate action.    
- Use the filter (top right of chart) to filter by member state and programme title.
- Use the drill up/down buttons (top left of chart) to toggle between investments by member state, programme, and intervention field.

Practical examples from the 2014-2020 programming period

Increasing the energy efficiency of Fox Laser Ltd. (Bulgaria)
Total budget: 2 149 600 € - EU contribution (ERDF) 30%
Project timeline: August 2017 - June 2019
The aim of the Fox Laser project was to reduce energy consumption, improve energy intensity and expand production capacity for the SME. An energy efficiency audit was conducted in order to analyse the firm's consumption patterns. Old, energy inefficient equipment was replaced with high-tech, energy efficient models, reducing both pollution and energy consumption in Fox Laser Ltd.'s production process. An energy management system was also implemented. As a result, Fox Laser Ltd. is expected to see an increase in competitiveness and reduced production costs due to these energy efficiency measures, thus expanding the firm's production capacity.
More information about the project can be found here:

Ecopartners for solar energy in Małopolska (Poland)
Total budget: 21 956 500 € - EU contribution (ERDF) 60%
Project timeline: July 2018 - June 2021
For this project, 5,929 renewable energy (RE) devices for the production of heat and electricity were purchased and assembled with ERDF support. This also consisted of 3,100 photovoltaic installation. The project was implemented in 35 municipalities of the Małopolska Voivodeship.  The electricity produced by this installation will be used by the recipients, the energy shorfalls will be made up the grid, and the excess RE production capacity transferred to the grid.

Further resources and readings

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Authors: Mathieu FICHTER, Dora O'NEILL, Caterina SCARPA
Date of Text: Ver 2 - April 2024; Ver 1 - April 2023.