Climate models

Analysis underlying EU legislation – Do climate models support the Commission’s policy choices? –


EU law and practice mandate the use of impartial impact assessments to guide the formation of EU policies, including climate policies. They are supposed to synthesize the best costs, technologies and scientific information available.

At the heart of climate-related impact assessments are model-based scenario quantification tools. PRIMES is the Commission’s modeling tool for the EU Fit for 55 initiative. As with any tool, how the tool is used determines the results. Incorrect assumptions provided to modelers can lead to the well-known “garbage in / garbage out” phenomenon.

The Commission has relied on PRIMES for over a decade as its primary modeling tool. When PRIMES first appeared, the Commission recognized the need for transparency in its use. However, some stakeholders argue that how the Commission uses PRIMES is unknown and unknowable to them, as it refuses to disclose its modeling process. They also claim that it prohibits PRIMES managers from sharing details with public actors.

If so, it raises questions about the role and influence of the European Commission in a post-COVID world. The first is whether the Commission has a process to update the information and assumptions in PRIMES to keep pace with rapid changes in the real world – or whether PRIMES in 2021 continues to use the modeling assumptions of ‘before 2010. The second is whether PRIMES is used not as a precursor of political decisions, but rather to justify the development of ideological policies.

Watch this EURACTIV virtual conference again to learn more about the Commission’s impact assessment for the transport sector in the latest climate package. If the modeling data seems to contradict real world data, what are the consequences? And who is responsible for ensuring that the modeling assumptions evolve with real world data, technological advancements and the actual provisions of EU law?

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Analysis underlying EU legislation – Do climate models support the Commission’s policy choices?

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