What’s wrong with you, EU?

20 October 2014

At the end of this week, EU leaders will decide on Europe’s climate and energy future. Agreement on the post-2020 Climate and Energy Package make the EU the first to announce an international offer.

Other countries will be intently looking at the ambition and quality of the key elements that form the Package: the emissions reductions target, the renewable energy target and efforts to increase energy efficiency. These elements are likely to be parts of many other countries’ INDCs, the EU should be wary of exposing itself to criticism as an unambitious first mover. Given that the EU is a major proponent of a global carbon market, other parties (including China) will also be looking at the impact of the package on the EU ETS.

Many EU leaders stood up at the New York Climate Summit and talked about the need to agree on an ambitious global climate deal in Paris. Yet, at the same time they announced they would be adopting a 40% emissions reduction target by 2030, which is way below the EU’s equitable share of effort for a below 2°C trajectory (much less a 1.5°C pathway), and not in line with the 2050 target agreed by EU leaders in 2009 of 80-95% emission reductions. A 40% reduction cannot be the last word from Europe in the run up to Paris. ECO suggests that two things must be inserted in the EU deal next week:

  • A commitment that EU leaders will meet again BEFORE Paris to revisit the level of ambition in the EU’s INDC, and to adopt a 2025 commitment (see related article in today’s ECO).
  • An inclusion of the two little words “at least” before the “40%” to indicate that Europe is leaving open the possibility that it will do its fair share on emission reductions up to 2030. 

Germany, the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Slovenia, Estonia, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Finland, and Austria are all pushing for “at least” 40%. A large share of European businesses have also spoken out in favour of going beyond 40% emission reductions by 2030. Unfortunately a few countries remain in opposition. Poland is leading the opposition and using the threat of a veto to extract more financial support for its coal industry. It does not help that France, the future COP president, has been totally silent on this issue.

The EU is also preparing to set a target of “at least” 27% renewable energy in 2030, which actually means that the target will fall behind real world growth in renewables in Europe after 2020. Such low targets would mean that the EU, once a leader in the development of renewable technologies, could fall behind in this sector and lose out on all the associated economic benefits. The renewable target is binding only at the EU level, not on member states (mostly because of opposition from the UK), leading the International Energy Agency to question its credibility. France has supported the UK, despite its own brand new Energy Transition Law, which contains a binding 32% RE target for 2030.

Leaders are also discussing a 30% energy efficiency target. Energy savings hold the key to improving the EU’s competitiveness and energy security. Yet even this modest target is being opposed by the UK government, despite the Financial Times calling roof insulation Europe’s “secret weapon” against Russian gas imports.

What’s wrong with you, EU?

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