EU Draws Up New GHG and Renewables Targets

30.01.2014 -

Under its new framework plan for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions up to 2030, the European Commission has set a goal of cutting emissions by 40% against 1990 and a binding target for renewable energy of at least 27%. The Commission also has renewed its promise to improve energy efficiency, develop a governance system and a new set of indicators to ensure a competitive and secure energy system.

In revising the targets that have been Europe's benchmark since 2007, the Commission, under pressure from industry, had been widely expected to scale back earlier, more ambitious targets. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Jan. 22 announcement met with the scorn of environmental advocates and NGOs across the EU. Nevertheless, Brussels said its decision was "supported by a detailed analysis of energy prices and costs."

On its 2020 goals, Europe sees itself on track to meet the targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20% against 1990 and increasing the share of renewable energy in the mix to 20%. The Commission acknowledges, however, that the one non-binding goal, improving energy efficiency by 20 %, is not likely to be met.

The European authority presented its current approach to renewables as "a more market-oriented approach," one that comes with "significant benefits in terms of energy trade balances, reliance on indigenous energy sources, jobs and growth." But while saying targets at EU levels are necessary to drive continued investment in the sector, it defended the decision not to make the rules binding for member states, saying that these needed flexibility to adapt the transition to national preferences and circumstances.

Commenting on the new framework, Commission president José Manuel Barroso, energy commissioner Günther Oettinger and commissioner for climate action Connie Hedegaard unanimously agreed that the 40% greenhouse gas reduction target is the most cost-effective way toward a low-carbon economy. In Hedegaard's view, "if all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape."

Before becoming law, the framework agreement will be debated by the European Council and European Parliament, flanked by negotiations on a market stability reserve for the EU emissions trading system (ETS), starting in 2021. As the latter in particular is controversial, observers say it could be years before any of the current proposals are translated into reality.