The European Commission has decided to call a proposed European Union renewable energy target for 2030 ‘binding’, switching course from an earlier plan for an indicative goal, according to EU sources.
However it will still not be broken down into individual national targets, meaning national governments will have no obligation to expand renewable energy after 2020. The bloc as a whole would oblige itself to meet the headline target, likely to be set at a 27% share of total EU energy.
In recent weeks the Commission’s internal discussions focused on renewing only one of the EU’s three binding 2020 targets for the following decades – that for emissions. The 2030 target for the share of renewable sources in the EU’s energy mix was to be a non-binding headline goal.
After a negative reaction from MEPs and campaigners, as well as strong pressure from Germany which wants a binding target in order to justify continued support for renewables, the commission this week decided to make the EU-level target binding for the bloc to meet as a whole.
But it will still not be broken down into individual binding targets for member states. This means that countries that are enthusiastic about renewables, such as Germany and Denmark, can meet most of the target after 2020 while other governments could choose to not promote renewable energy.
The renewables target is also not expected to extend sub-targets for renewable transport beyond 2020, according to EU sources. The current rules oblige member states to cut road fuel emissions by 6% and source 10% of all transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020.
Environmental campaigners say this bottom-up approach for 2030 is not really ‘binding’ at all, because member states will have no individual obligations.
“There can be no binding EU target unless the Commission breaks it down into national targets,” said Mark Breddy of campaign group Greenpeace. “This is just a smokescreen from the Commission to cover up its intention to hit the brakes on renewables.”
Having the EU oblige itself to meet the renewables goal could provide the necessary justification for some countries to continue subsidies to renewables and to maintain private investor confidence in the sector, the Commission hopes.
National governments would still be responsible for meeting a legally binding emissions-reduction target in 2030, which will be broken down into binding national targets. But they could choose to get to this target in a way other than increasing renewable energy, such as an increase in nuclear at the expense of coal.
The 2030 emissions-reduction target will most likely be set at 40% of 1990 levels. However, there is a tense fight on this issue going on within the Commission, with the energy and industry commissioners pushing for a 35% reduction. A decision on the target figure will not be made until the college meeting on Wednesday (January 22), after which the communication will be presented.
If a 40% emissions target is adopted, the Commission will set a renewable energy share target of 27%. Should a 35% emissions figure be chosen, this would result in a 24% renewable target. An earlier plan to set a 30% target has been deemed unworkable by the Commission.
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The figures are only being put forward as a communication at this stage, not as binding legislation. The Commission is hoping that member state leaders will endorse the idea for 2030 targets at the European Council summit in June, after having discussed the issue at a summit in March. The EU would then be able to present the emissions pledge to a summit of UN leaders in September, which they hope will spur other developed countries to follow suit ahead of an international climate summit in Paris at the end of 2015, when global leaders plan to agree binding emission reduction pledges.
The third target for 2020, to increase energy efficiency by 20%, has been dropped. The Commission will propose to drop this target for 2030. But this will be subject to a review of the Energy Efficiency Directive scheduled for July.