2030 CLIMATE TARGET
Schedule: political backing in March, legislation by 2016
The Commission has opted not to renew the current 20-20-20 strategy for the following decade. In 2008 Barroso and European Union leaders set three targets for 2020: a 20% reduction in emissions compared to 1990 levels, a 20% share of energy from renewable sources and a 20% increase in energy efficiency. The first two were binding, while the third was an indicative goal.
Yesterday’s communication proposes a binding EU-wide target to reduce emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030. This is in line with the Commission’s long-term plan for an 80% reduction by 2050. The target can only be met by measures taken within the EU, unlike the 2020 target, which could be met by financing projects in the developing world.
But where ambition has been scaled back is the Commission’s retreat from making the renewable energy target binding on member states. The 2030 target – that the share of renewable energy in the total energy mix should be at least 27% – would be ‘binding’ only at EU level and would not be broken down into national obligations. Günther Oettinger, European commissioner for energy, said that future commissions would have to ensure the goal is met.
The communication also says that the current target of reducing greenhouse gases from transport fuels by 6% between 2011 and 2020 should not be renewed after 2020.
The communication does not call for extending the energy efficiency target, delaying a decision until a review of the Energy Efficiency Directive is conducted later this year. But a 2030 efficiency target appears unlikely, as the EU is already set to miss its 2020 target.
The Commission hopes to see the target of a 40% reduction in emissions endorsed by member state leaders at the European Council in June. This would enable the EU to arrive at September’s UN leaders summit with this commitment on the table, which it hopes will spur other developed countries to act.
Climate campaigners, who have called for a target of 55%, expressed disappointment.“This falls well short of what science tells us is needed to address the devastating consequences of climate change and shows a serious lack of vision and leadership by President Barroso,” said Jeremy Wates, secretary-general of campaign group EEB.
But the Commission is insistent that it must focus on what is achievable. Even 40% will be difficult to achieve politically. Poland is expected to oppose the target, which can be vetoed by any single member state. The reaction to a 40% target from most member states has been positive. If the plan is endorsed in June, the new Commission will then have to codify it into a legislative proposal in 2015.
The importance that Barroso has attached to producing this final piece of climate legislation before the end of his mandate is reflected in the way it was rushed through inter-service consultation between Commission departments. The main discussions were conducted by a sub-set of only nine Commissioners with climate- and energy-related portfolios.
STRUCTURAL REFORM OF EMISSIONS TRADING
Format: Legislative proposal Schedule: passage by 2015
The Commission’s proposal to reform the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is the only legislative proposal in today’s package. It attempts to solve the problem of a chronically low price of carbon by establishing an automated ‘stability reserve’, starting in 2021.
It would add 100 million carbon credits when the total number of allowances exceeds 400 million. It would take away 100 million if this amount exceeds 12% of the total number of allowances in the system.
A reserve was one of several options floated by the Commission in an impact assessment last year. A temporary measure put forward last year to delay a number of carbon allowances in order to raise the price of carbon met unexpectedly strong resistance from member states and the European Parliament.
SHALE GAS EXTRACTION GUIDELINES
Schedule: application in next six months, review in 2016
The European Commission published guidelines on shale-gas exploration that aim to provide greater clarity for the extractive industry and rule out the prospect of cumbersome EU-level restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (known as fracking).
The process – in which a high-pressure water mixture is injected into rock to release the gas inside – is controversial, with claims from opponents that it may contaminate groundwater and cause small earthquakes.
The Commission, under pressure from environmentalists and some member states, including France, had been considering, binding EU-wide rules covering environmental damage and safety.
But there have been warnings from the oil and gas industries, and pro-shale countries such as Poland and the UK, that adding red tape would inhibit exploration and prevent the EU from taking advantage of an indigenous, low-carbon (compared to coal) energy source.
Member states will still be free to ban fracking.
From December 2014 member states should report each year on the measures they have put in place. The Commission will monitor adherence to the recommendations in a scoreboard and review the effectiveness of the voluntary approach in 2016.
ENERGY PRICE REPORT
Format: white paper Schedule: passage within the year
The Commission concludes that the gap between energy costs in Europe and those of its global competitors is widening. European energy costs are now more than double what they are in the US and 20% higher than in China. Industrial gas prices are three to four times higher than in the US or Russia.
The paper was originally being prepared for a European Council devoted to competitiveness scheduled to take place next month. However this summit has since been cancelled.
The Commission’s energy and industry departments therefore insisted on including the white paper with this week’s 2030 proposal because they wanted to reassure industry that its concerns are being heard. Some voices in industry have blamed European climate policies, particularly its support for renewables, for rising energy prices.
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