EU delays decision on 2030 but talks renewables for energy independence

Clare Saxon Ghauri
21 March 2014

LONDON: The EU has announced it will delay the decision on a 2030 climate and clean energy package until October 2014, but will focus on developing renewables to ramp up energy independence in light of events in Ukraine.

The EU Council of member state governments met at a two-day summit in Brussels today, where they agreed to postpone further decisions on its 2030 climate and energy package until October.

Last month the Commission called for binding targets on energy efficiency, a 40% emission reduction goal and a tougher 30% renewables target on the current plans for a 27% target. Today's meeting was an opportunity to increase the target and release the 2030 package, in what was hoped would trigger progress towards a global climate deal at 2015's COP21 in Paris.

Although the opportunity was missed, the Council agreed to increase energy independence by promoting domestic sources such as renewable energy, following events in Ukraine. 

Council President Herman van Rompuy said in a statement: "Today we sent a clear signal that Europe is stepping up a gear to reduce energy dependency, especially with Russia: by reducing our energy demand, with more energy efficiency; by diversifying our supply routes to and within Europe, and expanding energy sources, in particular renewables."

Although van Rompuy insisted the EU was “not giving up" ambitions on climate change because it will "have a huge impact on our economies", and that the package would be in line with “ambitious long-term objectives for 2050”, many shared frustration that the decision doesn’t seem to have taken into account the urgency required in the year before COP21.

NGOs, businesses want tougher targets

In the past month, 31 industry giants called for greater energy efficiency in the package, and The Climate Group and 37 other leading organizations and businesses published an open letter calling on the Council to support stronger 2030 climate goals.

Damian Ryan, Senior Policy Manager, The Climate Group commented: “The Council’s decision to delay agreement on the EU’s 2030 climate and energy package is not the signal that businesses and investors in the clean tech and clean energy sectors needed.

"The delay may only be six or so months, but the message it sends points to a worrying lack of political leadership. With a new global climate deal meant to be agreed in Paris next December, now is not the time for Europe’s politicians to go wobbly on climate action.

Despite political uncertainty, Europe's renewables markets are continuing to grow. New figures show that in 2012, renewable energy was estimated to have contributed 14.1% of gross final energy consumption, compared with just 8.3% in 2004.

European people too, have overwhelmingly expressed their support for greater EU action on climate change according to a poll, which said 80% of Europeans agree greater energy efficiency would boost economy and employment.

European leadership

Ambitious targets on climate and renewables are also needed to maintain the bloc's competitiveness. A study released last month showed how Europe risks losing its foothold as a major renewables market to China and the US if it doesn't regain leadership on climate and green energy policies.

Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, warns the delay will undermine investor confidence: “The decision by EU leaders to delay an agreement on the EU’s climate policies will delay much-needed low-carbon energy investment. Investors cannot plan complex, long-term investments on the basis of proposals alone. They need policies in place.

"New energy investment is crucial to securing Europe’s energy security and measures which deliver this investment should be a priority for EU policymakers. Delay will also make it more difficult for Europe to play a leadership role at the UN global climate summit in September. Investors will need to see a real sense of urgency and an ambitious climate agreement in the coming months if they are to be re-assured that the EU is committed to a low-carbon future.”

By Clare Saxon

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