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EU’s 2030 Climate Goals Criticised

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By Jaya Ramachandran

The World Resources Institute (WRI) has greeted the European Commission’s announcement of a climate and energy package, which the 28-nation European Union (EU) heads of state would consider at their meeting on March 20-21. But the Institute points out that “the proposal does not yet ensure a clear pathway to a low carbon economy”.

The package announced on January 22 includes a domestic 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, below 1990 levels, a binding target of at least 27 percent renewable energy across the EU, and measures to improve the functioning of the Emissions Trading System. In addition, a series of measures were proposed to improve the functioning of the EU internal energy market and increase security of supply.

The Washington-based WRI says: “The move comes as countries all over the world are just starting to put together their ‘national offers’ in the lead up to an international climate agreement in 2015. The European Union is the first to deeply engage in considering its post-2020 target, consulting the public and stakeholders in the decision-making process.”

Highlights of the Commission’s 2030 policy framework are:

A binding greenhouse gas reduction target: A centre piece of the EU’s energy and climate policy for 2030, the target of a 40% emissions reduction below the 1990 level would be met through domestic measures alone. The annual reduction in the ‘cap’ on emissions from EU ETS (Emissions Trading System) sectors would be increased from 1.74% now to 2.2% after 2020. Emissions from sectors outside the EU ETS would need to be cut by 30% below the 2005 level, and this effort would be shared equitably between the Member States. The Commission invites the Council and the European Parliament to agree by the end of 2014 that the EU should pledge the 40% reduction in early 2015 as part of the international negotiations on a new global climate agreement due to be concluded in Paris at the end of 2015.

An EU-wide binding renewable energy target: Renewable energy will play a key role in the transition towards a competitive, secure and sustainable energy system. The EU Commission says in a press release: Driven by a more market-oriented approach with enabling conditions for emerging technologies, an EU-wide binding target for renewable energy of at least 27% in 2030 comes with significant benefits in terms of energy trade balances, reliance on indigenous energy sources, jobs and growth.

It adds: “An EU-level target for renewable energy is necessary to drive continued investment in the sector. However, it would not be translated into national targets through EU legislation, thus leaving flexibility for Member States to transform the energy system in a way that is adapted to national preferences and circumstances. Attainment of the EU renewables target would be ensured by the new governance system based on national energy plans.”

Energy efficiency: The Commission expects improved energy efficiency to contribute to all objectives of EU energy policy. In its view, no transition towards a competitive, secure and sustainable energy system is possible without it. “The role of energy efficiency in the 2030 framework will be further considered in a review of the Energy Efficiency Directive due to be concluded later this year. The Commission will consider the potential need for amendments to the directive once the review has been completed. Member States’ national energy plans will also have to cover energy efficiency,” says the press release.

Reform of EU ETS: The Commission proposes to establish a market stability reserve at the beginning of the next ETS trading period in 2021. The reserve would both address the surplus of emission allowances that has built up in recent years and improve the system's resilience to major shocks by automatically adjusting the supply of allowances to be auctioned, says the Commission. “The creation of such a reserve – in addition to the recently agreed delay in the auctioning of 900 million allowances until 2019-2020 ('back-loading') – is supported by a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Under the legislation, proposed today, the reserve would operate entirely according to pre-defined rules which would leave no discretion to the Commission or Member States in its implementation,” says the press release issued on January 22.

Commenting on the European Commission’s package, Jennifer Morgan, Director of the Climate and Energy program at the World Resources Institute says:

"This is a critical moment, and year, for climate action. The science behind climate change is clear and irrefutable. Governments, businesses and citizens have the responsibility to act. Countries should be looking to raise their level of ambition to reduce emissions and expedite the shift to clean energy.

"The European Union has made an important first step by setting a clear post-2020 target, which was developed through a transparent process. On both process and substance, the EU has the opportunity to be a leader. While there are some positive signals around bringing integrity back into the carbon market and a focus on domestic GHG targets, the package announced today does not yet meet that test. The proposal does not yet ensure a clear pathway to a low carbon economy, nor is it clear that the Emissions Trading System reforms will create a high enough price on carbon to shift away from carbon-intensive sources of energy.

"WRI’s analysis finds that binding national targets and policies are required to drive further renewables development. The European Commission’s proposal replaces national targets with a regional target – leaving implementation open to chance – a risky proposition as other countries forge ahead on renewables development.

"Leaders in Europe can continue to strengthen this proposal and demonstrate they truly understand the stakes for people and planet. There will be opportunities this year to inject greater ambition into their offers.

"This year will lay the groundwork for a strong, universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015. The EU can play a critical role in raising the bar and inspiring other world leaders to step up to this challenge."

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso appeared to be concurring with that view, when he said: "Climate action is central for the future of our planet, while a truly European energy policy is key for our competitiveness. Today's package proves that tackling the two issues simultaneously is not contradictory, but mutually reinforcing. It is in the EU's interest to build a job-rich economy that is less dependent on imported energy through increased efficiency and greater reliance on domestically produced clean energy. An ambitious 40% greenhouse reduction target for 2030 is the most cost-effective milestone in our path towards a low-carbon economy. And the renewables target of at least 27% is an important signal: to give stability to investors, boost green jobs and support our security of supply."

Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger explained: "The 2030 framework is the EU's drive for progress towards a competitive low-carbon economy, investment stability and security of energy supply. My aim is to make sure that energy remains affordable for households and companies. The 2030 framework sets a high level of ambition for action against climate change, but it also recognises that this needs to be achieved at least cost. The internal energy market provides the basis to achieve this goal and I will continue to work on its completion in order to use its full potential. This includes the 'Europeanisation' of renewable energy policies."

EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said: “In spite of all those arguing that nothing ambitious would come out of the Commission today, we did it. A 40% emissions reduction is the most cost-effective target for the EU and it takes account of our global responsibility. And of course Europe must continue its strong focus on renewables. That is why it matters that the Commission is proposing today a binding EU-level target. The details of the framework will now have to be agreed, but the direction for Europe has been set. If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape.”

[Source: IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters]

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