On 1 January 2024, Belgium assumed the presidency of the Council of the EU, succeeding Spain. Although its term will be somewhat curtailed by the European elections in June, Belgium has outlined an ambitious programme spanning various areas, including research and innovation (R&I), energy and climate policies. In this regard, the Green Deal and delivering the clean energy transition will remain central priorities in the next six months, with the Belgian presidency specifically highlighting the importance of delivering affordable energy, securing supplies, boosting efficiency and integration, as well as increasing the EU’s share of renewable and low-carbon energy.
Concretely, files pertaining to the Green Deal Industrial Plan are set to be finalised before June 2024, as interinstitutional agreements have been reached on two of the three files composing it – namely the Electricity Market Design reform and the Critical Raw Materials Act - while trilogues on the Net-Zero Industry Act are ongoing. Additionally, lawmakers are expected to progress on files related to carbon storage technologies, the European Hydrogen Bank, and Geothermal energy in the coming months.
Most crucially, the European Commission is anticipated to reveal its proposed climate target for 2040 on 6 February, leading the way to climate neutrality by 2050. Early discussions and declarations by Commissioners Hoekstra and Šefčovič suggest a target of a 90% reduction in carbon emissions compared to 1990 levels. This goal is expected to play a significant role in shaping the direction of climate and energy initiatives for the upcoming College of Commissioners and European Parliament, taking office in the second half of the year. However, a considerable amount of uncertainty lies ahead, given the imminent institutional changes at the EU level, coupled with the fact that no fewer than nine member states are scheduled to hold elections in the next twelve months.
The research and innovation ecosystem should also undergo significant developments in the next years, as the EU’s Framework Programme Horizon Europe will enter its second half, with the UK having finally rejoined the programme and discussions with Switzerland on its association picking up speed. In parallel, experts will continue drafting the EU’s next Framework Programme, FP10, to kick off in 2028.
As the current EU institutional office works diligently to safeguard its legacy, 2024 is poised to usher in significant transformations to R&I, energy, and climate policies. Anticipated changes on the horizon suggest a reshaping of the landscape within these crucial sectors of the European Union, posing an increasing forecast challenge to the green agenda crafted under the current Ursula Von der Leyen Commission.