Parliament backs strong EU stance on 2030 clean energy goals

  

The European Parliament sent a “strong message” yesterday (5 February) in favour of an ambitious EU energy and climate policy for 2030, backing legally-binding goals for CO2 emissions, renewables and energy efficiency.

 

Parliament backs strong EU stance on 2030 clean energy goals

 

Parliament voted for a 40% cut in CO2 emissions, a 30% share of the energy market for renewables and a 40% improvement in energy efficiency, all by 2030.

The resolution, approved by 341 votes to 263, criticised the Commission’s proposed energy and climate framework, which is meant to extend the current 2020 package.

The vote itself is not legally-binding but agreement will need to be reached between the Commission, Parliament and member states before a final proposal can be signed off on, later this year. 

As such, Parliament signalled its intent to the EU executive, which unveiled a much less ambitious plan earlier this year.

While most MEPs backed the stronger targets, many Conservative and centre-right MEPs were worried about the possible consequences on business and EU country's ability to decide their own energy mix.

Françoise Grossetête, a French MEP from the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), called the figures "madness", saying "member states should have the necessary freedom and flexibility to decide their energy mix.”

Non-binding but politically crucial

Other MEPs called the EU executive's proposal “short-sighted” and “unambitious”. This was so, “specifically as regards the lack of national targets for renewable energy and of any meaningful new action to incentivise energy efficiency”, Parliament said in a statement.

The Commission's 2030 plan also called for a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emission (GHG), but just a 27% non-binding share for renewables in the energy mix, and no target at all on energy efficiency.

Brook Riley, an environmental activist at Friends of the Earth, said that  Parliament's proposed targets would increase the continent's emission-cutting potential.

“The positive outcome of today’s vote is that MEPs’ support for energy efficiency and renewables means they are effectively calling for a 45-50% emissions target," Riley told EurActiv. "This is less than the 60% cuts Friends of the Earth’s analysis shows is needed for the EU to be in line with its 2°C climate commitments. But the Parliament’s vote is a welcome counter signal to the Commission’s dangerously weak proposals of last month. We hope EU governments are listening.”

Although the parliamentary text is a non-binding resolution, it nonetheless sends a “strong political message” and a “timely signal” that the parliament “regrets the Commission’s proposal”, MEP Bas Eickhout (Greens) said. “One of the two institutions that have to legislate on this matter is unhappy,” he added.

Parliament bypassed?

Energy ministers will meet in Brussels in March to discuss the 2030 targets, but MEPs are worried that the Commission may tryto “bypass” Parliament by choosing a different legislative basis when tabling its final proposal, in October at the earliest.

An amendment adopted yesterday expressed the institution’s “deep concern about the proposals for a new governance structure for the 2030 framework, and (…) insists that the Commission should base any legal proposal on full co-decision between Parliament and the Council.”

The text refers to a formulation in the Commission’s January communication which flags a “new governance framework based on national plans for competitive, secure and sustainable energy prepared by the Member States .”

MEP fear that the Commission could try to leave the final decision to member states only, by choosing a legal basis in the treaty that would sideline Parliament. The original amendment called on the Commission to base its proposal on  Article 194 of the Lisbon Treaty but this provision was later erased.

Not all stakeholders share their concern. "Rather than monitoring reports and reviews like it is now, it would be more based on a bilateral cooperation,” said one Parliamentary source who added that the new governance formula referred to the Commission’s monitoring methods.

Challenges for the next legislature

Regardless of yesterday's vote, a surge in far-right parties in the next EU parliament, as many opinion polls have predicted, could water down the EU’s environmental ambitions.

The group of the European Reformists and Conservatives (ECR) whose members helped draft the report, withdrew their signatures and called on MEPs not to adopt objectives which they termed a “mistake” that might weaken the EU’s position in global talks before the 2015 Paris conference.

Eurosceptics are traditionally opposed to ambitious environmental regulations, but the centre-right EU group, the European People’s Party (EPP) might hold the key, since it is expected to win a majority of seats in the next legislature.

“There will be a push towards the EPP," Eickhout warned. "The EPP will need to decide whether they team up with the progressives or the extremists. Reasonable policy will prevail if the EPP leans towards the more progressive side of the Parliament.”

Positions: 

Reacting to the vote, the EU's Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard tweeted: “Good result in European Parliament vote on EU2030 sending a clear signal to EU governments to support 40% GHG target. Hope EU governments will listen!”

Françoise Grossetête  from the European People’s Party said in a statement that she voted against the targets: “These numbers are madness. How many times will they change by 2030? Our industry needs a stable and foreseeable framework to boost long-term investments. Instead of that, the parliament proposes unrealistic numbers! […] Reducing CO2 emissions is our priority, we should have focused on one objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Member states should have the necessary freedom and flexibility to decide their energy mix.”

The Socialists and Democrats’s shadow rapporteur in the environment committee, Swedish MEP Marita Ulvskog, said: "I welcome the ambitious report we adopted today. If we look at the climate change policy set for 2020 we see how we were extremely successful where we had binding targets, such as the 20% reduction of CO2 emissions. We have already achieved 18%."

"I think that this lesson was very clear today for a majority in the Parliament and the Commission must listen. We are calling for a clear-cut legislation with binding targets and predictability. Predictability will allow for investment in key energy sectors."

Greenpeace reacted by saying: “Europe cannot lead on clean energy development without clear enforceable targets for renewables and efficiency. With its call for binding targets today, the parliament has drawn a line in the sand to give investors the certainty they need. Now EU governments have to raise the bar to secure a clean energy future for Europe.”

The Coalition for Energy Savings, an association representing businesses, professionals and local authorities lobbying for ambitious energy savings policies, said: “The European Parliament takes the leadership by putting energy savings on top of the EU energy and climate agenda for 2030, encouraging a wavering Commission to make decisive steps in the coming months”, said Jan te Bos, Chairman of the Coalition for Energy Savings and Director General of EURIMA, the European Insulation Manufacturers Association. “It recognises that the EU has to capture its huge energy saving potentials, to reduce energy costs, create local jobs, and address long-term competitiveness and climate concerns – all at the same time”.

Bertrand Cazes, the Secretary General of Glass for Europe said: “Today, the European Parliament's stance on energy efficiency marks the victory of logic and rationale thinking over unclear political interests and legacy. Since energy efficiency is central to all EU objectives, it deserves a binding target to set levels of ambitions and thus mobilize market actors”

The European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings said: “The European Parliament has shown a clear vision and understanding of the current economic dynamics in the EU – unlocking the available cost-effective energy savings potential in sectors like buildings through a binding Energy Efficiency Target and a sectoral target for buildings is a no-brainer”

“Europe’s long-term climate and energy policies cannot be entirely convincing as long as they fail to properly address the question of heating and cooling” said Paul Voss of Euroheat & Power. “If we are serious about the energy transition, we will need a thoughtful approach that recognises heating and cooling for what they are; integral elements of the energy system which can and must be used to optimise overall performance.”

Timeline: 
  • March 2014: EU Energy ministers to meet over 2030 energy and climate targets
External links: 
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Comments

Kaj Embren's picture

Good step but not enough

A report from the business-oriented Think Tank, Global Utmaning (Global Challenges), shows that carbon-neutrality is a possibility. It proposes a way to viably reduce energy-related CO2 emissions by 85 percent and cover the remaining 15 percent offset with international carbon credits.
As early as 2012, Sweden achieved the EU target for 2020 of using renewables for 10 percent of its transport sector and 49 percent of the total energy mix. Energy use from fossil fuels decreased and now bioenergy is more of a major resource than oil.

More details at http://bit.ly/1aoPcDP

Franz Ganz's picture

Sweden has a small population in a large country covered mostly by forests, so it is easy to serve heating requirements by burning trees (burning trees is the major source of bioenergy).

Germany, as an example, has 10 times the population density and much less forestal area. If we followed Sweden's example there would be no tree left 20 years from now.

So what works in one country does not necessarily work in other countries.

Kaj Embren's picture

Yes, you are right - Sweden is small but together with the other Nordic countries we are bigger. The bioenergy sector can produce more and even export electricity to Europe based on the source of bioenergy.

And together with Germany the Nordics can make the district heating and cooling more energy efficient in both Germany and central- eastern Europe. It is one of the low hanging fruits….

All this without to risk the necessary biodiversity goals.

I think it is time to get out of the sector thinking and be more holistic in the view of Climate Change realities.

Time to run away from Business as Usual….
Best
Kaj

Mike Parr's picture

"many Conservative and centre-right MEPs were worried about the possible consequences on business"

I share these worries & they are highly important worries - for example, how to position a company to take advantage of the significant business opportunities that a strong energy efficiency programme would lead to

How to recruit enough people to meet that inflow of business - & whilst some people might point to 50% youth unemployment in Spain I can only respond - well this pool of labour will not last for ever

I'm also worried for companies that sell energy - after all - what happens when people use far less energy? this is a serious question - after all the top bosses in the energy companies need to be kept in the style to which they have grown used to - I know - perhaps they could SELL energy efficiency - gosh that's an original thought.

There is also another very serious problem, as people and companies suddenly started saving lost of energy BusinessEurope would need to change its motto from "We want Euro Business to waste energy" to something else - otherwise they might look.... a bit behind the times..

Kaj Embren's picture

Dear Mike Parr,

I am working with businesses in Europe - they are worried - that the EU don't go enough to meet the needs of worries based on Climate Change. As I have been pointing out based on experience from businesses - they asking how to find a way out from business as usual. One of the most promising example from the industry is the american company - Interface Inc - the worlds biggest carpet producer - The US-based carpet manufacturer Interface has set itself a target of reducing its energy use through improved operational efficiency, aiming to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.

It purchases clean electricity from the grid and invests it in carbon-neutral, on-site power generation. Currently, 91 percent of the electricity the company uses is from renewable sources, as opposed to 30 percent globally. Interface also uses the option of carbon offsetting so customers can ensure their purchases are more sustainable.

Recycling is another sector that is growing. This is not only crucial to protect the eco-systems ravaged by our hunt for raw materials because, as with energy efficiency, recycling has huge economic and job-creation potential. A recent EU study estimated that 400,000 new jobs could be created through the recycling industry, saving €72 billion at the same time.

Follow on Twitter @KajEmbren

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