There seems to be a variety of approaches in Member States, e.g. for pre-screening and for assessing the benefits.
There are also many commonalities in assessing disproportionate costs, for example the fact that in several Member States different analyses (cost/benefit assessment, affordability analysis) are used at the same time.
The discussions were more about exchanging information, than about moving towards a common approach.
There were case studies on prioritisation and pre-screening for applying the exemptions.
Such prioritisation approaches have the merit of simplicity.
It is not clear how these approaches will work out in justifying exemptions on water body scale in line with the Directive.
Some MS indicated that the justification of exemptions at water body scale will be done with information gathered at different levels. The information at this broader scale should relevant for the concerned water body or group of water bodies.
It was clear from most case studies that the more information you have or different analyses you use, the better it is to inform decision-making.
It was re-emphasised that the depth and detail of disproportionality assessment needs to be proportionate.
There was a French case study where because of affordability reasons, good status will be reached in 2030 and therefore a lower objective will be set.
There was a case study from the Navigation Task Group on combining measures at a later stage having higher benefits. This would mean that the comparison between costs and benefits would change more positively in the future.
There were several case studies from Spain where the social impacts were analysed.
There were no case studies presented where there were no alternative financing mechanisms one could think of.
It was indicated by some countries that they will face limits of the public budget at different levels.
It was mentioned that existing European legislation might prevent the use of certain alternative financing mechanisms (e.g. state aids).
There were no examples on how budget constraints would justify exemptions for particular water bodies. Some MS indicated this will be done through prioritisation and by using at water body scale information from disproportionality analysis carried out at larger scale.
It was indicated in some MS that changes of the institutional or legal framework, e.g. for setting alternative financing mechanisms, would need time so the deadline needs to be extended.
It is not clear how this relates to justifying the exemptions in line with the Directive.
It was mentioned that the definition of water services is important in applying the polluter pays principle and finding financial alternatives but there were no case studies on this topic.
Other links with Article 9 have been discussed when looking into alternative financing alternatives, such as alternative taxes and social/economic effects.
Article 9 of the Water Framework Directive allows for mechanisms to mitigate disproportionate distributional consequences as Member States may have regard to the social, environmental and economic effects of the recovery, when requiring an adequate contribution of the different water uses to the recovery of costs of water services.
It was presented that identifying the marginal benefits is a useful element in the economic analysis, but it was mentioned that it is no basis for decision-making on achieving good status as the WFD is about achieving the environmental objectives.
Marginal costs and benefits could however provide useful information to determine the measures to take in case of setting lower objectives.
A proportionate combination of the different analyses (cost-benefit, benefits assessment, distribution of costs, social and sectoral impacts, affordability, cost-effectiveness, etc) are useful to inform decision making.
When affordability arguments can be used to extend the deadline, it has to be demonstrated that there are no relevant alternative financing mechanisms available.
Alternative financing mechanisms include for instance distribution of costs among polluters and beneficiaries (users), use of the public budget (at different levels) including direct payments, European funds, etc.
In case there are no alternative financing mechanisms identified and the deadline will be extended, it needs to be indicated which steps will be taken to address the issue in upcoming planning cycles.
Based on the polluter-pays principle, the use of affordability in extending the deadlines should not bring as a consequence that certain actors and sectors will not contribute to achieving good status in subsequent planning cycles.
For the same reason, affordability issues in a certain sector or for a certain user can not be used as a reason for setting less stringent objectives.
<NL: Disagree: it might be that affordability issues can not be resolved without getting to disproportionate costs, leading to the necessity to set lower objective.
FR: Disagree: provided case study on achieving objective in 2030 instead of 2027
SE: Agree: provided case study where distributional consequences can not be taken into account in 4.5>
Affordability could be the final decisive < COM disagrees > argument to look into when deciding on an extension of the deadline, but needs to be substantiated by further investigations. An assessment of benefits of the measures needs to play a role in deciding on an extension of the deadline.
A narrow interpretation of water services may affect the range of actors that can be relied upon for financing measures. This doesn’t mean that Article 9 doesn’t allow for recovery of costs of certain water users.
<NL, BE, DE, UK, LU and Eurelectric disagree with putting a statement on this in the paper>
The WFD sets environmental objectives and the budget should follow.
Certain Member States indicated that there will be public budget constraints. It was presented how the constraints in the public budget can be scaled down to the waterbody level through prioritisation.
<COM indicated a reservation on this issue as it believes it may not be in line with the WFD>
Although certain Member States have in common that they use different elements in the disproportionality assessment, it is likely that comparability of applying exemptions will be complex with the current variety in the application of the different approaches for the first cycle.
From the case studies presented it is not clear how the use of affordability arguments will influence the ambition of implementation.
From the case studies presented it is not clear how the assessment of benefits will influence the ambition of implementation.
There were case studies presented which showed that is possible to be transparent in decision-making on exemptions, also for exemptions related to affordability.
Draft river basin management plans should be used to present in a transparent way the measures needed to achieve good status together with overall constraints, in order to make this information subject to public debate through the public participation process. Sufficient level of detail should be given on how total costs and benefits and other elements have been assessed.