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40% EU climate target must be seen as a floor to increased ambition, says Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group

Date
24 October 2014
40% EU climate target must be seen as a floor to increased ambition, says Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group

LONDON: Europe has adopted a binding target of reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) “at least” 40% by 2030 (compared to 1990), and increasing the share of renewable energy and energy efficiency by 27%. The announcement comes after an intense meeting of the European Council, which had to find a compromise between the different economic backgrounds and green aspirations of its member states.

“We have a deal on the EU 2030 climate and energy package - and that’s a good thing,” says Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group. “Europe is the first major economy to agree on its climate targets ahead of the Paris conference in 2015 and its leaders should be commended for that. It gets the ball rolling and paves the way for others to follow suit in the coming months”.

“The binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 is an important first step. But it won’t allow Europe to reclaim its position as a world climate leader. 40% is still not enough to put the EU on a path to net zero emissions by mid-century and kick start the transformational change we need. 40% must be seen as a floor which opens the door to increased ambition.

“The two other targets are frankly disappointing. With a 27% renewable energy target by 2030, Europe set the bar too low to convince investors to move away from fossil fuels and switch to a low carbon economy. The 27% target for energy efficiency improvements, which is only ‘indicative’, doesn’t send the right signal and won’t convince businesses to make a step change in energy efficiency investment. The review clause by 2020 will be important to revise the ambition upward.

“The business community was hoping for consistency from policymakers. They don’t have that yet. European leaders must now seize the opportunity to strengthen their ambitions and set the EU on a clear path to an innovative, prosperous, job-creating, low carbon future.”

A DIFFICULT COMPROMISE

Europe is on track to cutting its emissions 20% by 2020 below 1990 levels, a commitment set in the Europe 2020 growth strategy and known as the Climate and Energy package. The new GHG target will help save 455.7 million tons of CO2 equivalent by 2030, according to Eurostat figures.

eu ghg

Image: Greenhouse emissions in Europe, source Eurostat

The accord also reinforces the commitment for the 28 European States to reach the minimum target of 10% of existing electricity interconnections, seen “as a matter of urgency” - especially for Baltic States, Portugal and Spain - with the objective of arriving at a 15% target by 2030.

With the target of 27% by 2030 in the UE share of renewables, clean energy will almost double in just 16 years, since the actual figure is about 14% of the energy mix. The accord also improves the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), where the annual factor to reduce the cap on the maximum permitted emissions will be changed from 1.74% to 2.2% from 2021 onwards - with a fund of 2% of ETS allowances to help finance investment in low-income member states.

“It was not easy, not at all,” said Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, “but we managed to reach a fair decision. It sets Europe on an ambitious yet cost-effective climate and energy path. Today's decision will allow the European Union to bring a positive message to the international climate negotiations, a message of commitment”.

BOLD BUSINESS CALL UNHEARD

However, the business world had previously called for more bold and ambitious goals. The coalition We Mean Business, which represents hundreds of leading companies a market value of at least EUR4.33 trillion in Europe alone, yesterday placed an advert in the European Voice calling for at least 40% GHG reductions, with at least a 30% share of energy from renewable sources and 30% savings from energy efficiency.

On October 20, 2014, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group issued a similar letter to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and a week before 11 companies - including IKEA, Unilever and Philips - issued a joint declaration calling for binding targets well beyond 40%. Earlier this month, an open letter of 57 big companies representing more than 4.5 million employees worldwide, asked European Heads of State to agree to robust climate change and energy policy, including structural reform to the ETS.

“We have sent a strong signal to other big economies and all other countries,” underlined Connie Hedegaard, EU’s climate commissioner. “We have done our homework, now we urge you to follow Europe’s example”.

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