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09/12/2016

Germany expects quick deal over ‘ambitious’ EU climate goals

Sustainable Dev.

Germany expects quick deal over ‘ambitious’ EU climate goals

Drax-coal-power-plant-UK.jpg

Despite persistent opposition from some EU member states, German environment minister Barbara Hendricks said she expects an agreement over the EU's proposed climate and energy package for 2030, EurActiv.de reports.

Speaking in Berlin alongside EU Environment Commissioner Janez Poto?nik, Hendricks said she expected quick agreement over the European Commission’s proposed objective to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels.

The objective, presented by the Commission in January, were part of a broader package of proposals on energy and climate change for 2030 which would see Europe emit 40% less carbon dioxide, use renewables for 27% of its energy, and employ a reserve mechanism to regulate its carbon market.

The European Parliament and EU member states must still sign off on the proposal.

>> Read: EU sets out ‘walk now, sprint later’ 2030 clean energy vision

“I am quite confident that this will succeed,” said Hendricks, who added EU heads of state and government could sign off on the target at a  summit in Brussels at the end of March.

The proposal is widely disputed in the EU, particularly by countries like Poland, which are highly dependent on coal power generation and view the target as overly ambitious.

But, according to Hendricks, 15 countries in total have already committed themselves to upholding the 40% greenhouse gas reduction target.

 

 

German immediate action programme needed on climate protection

Germany plans to meet the 40% mark by 2020. But at the country’s current rate, only 35% can be achieved, Hendricks pointed out.

“We need an immediate action programme,” she said, adding that the target must also include the transportation, heating and construction sectors. After power generation, these areas are responsible for the brunt of CO2 emissions, which have experienced a recent rise in Germany because coal power plants operated for a longer time than expected, to the detriment of more environmentally safe gas-fired power plants.

In addition, Hendricks pointed out that Germany could agree to the 27% target share of renewable energy proposed by the Commission by 2030. Germany intends to achieve at least 30% more.

During a Franco-German ministerial meeting on 19 February, both states expressed their support of the 27% goal. In the years up to 2030 the target could be intensified, Hendricks said, emphasising that “ambitious goals during the period are desired and certainly possible”.

Commission proposal “far off” from scientific findings

But for Juliette de Grandpré from World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) the announcement from Minister Hendricks is not enough. “What is on the table at the moment is not good,” she told EurActiv.de.

“The numbers in the Commission’s proposal are far off from our expectations. And our expectations are in harmony with scientific findings,” De Grandpré said.

In a position paper published with other environmental organisations, WWF calls for a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, as well as a 45% share for renewables.

De Grandpré shares Hendricks’ appraisal, that the package could actually be passed in the upcoming EU summit on 20-21 March. 

Poland will present a position paper to other members next week, containing concrete conditions for its approval, she said. But since the Ukraine conflict has intensified, Poland is looking for solidarity with EU partners. As a result, the WWF expert’s analysis said, Poland is also moving forward in the climate negotiations.

Still, this is not something De Grandpré can look forward to. In her view, it makes more sense not to rush into an agreement over target values. “More time and a better package is preferable to something quick in March that could end up blocking things over the next few years,” she concluded. After the numbers are fixed, the WWF expert fears they will be harder to adjust.

Simone Peter, federal chairman of the German Green party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), expressed a similar view when she spoke with EurActiv.de. “Environment ministers must take braver steps on climate policy,” she said.

“The planned EU target of 40% CO2 reduction by 2030 would amount to a decade of stagnation on climate policy. That undermines the efforts toward a global agreement on containing global warming at a maximum of 2 degrees,” Peter contended.

7th EU Environment Action Programme

At the presentation of the EU’s seventh Environment Action Programme, Hendricks and Poto?nik portrayed a common commitment to an “ambitious EU environmental policy”. Environmental and climate protection are central principles for sustainable economic development and “living well” in Europe, the two agree.

The programme will serve as a framework for the EU’s environmental and climate policy up to 2020. After the Commission’s proposal, it was concluded by the European Parliament and the member states at the end of 2013. Nine priority targets are covered, including the transition to an efficient, environmentally friendly and competitive low-CO2 economy. The plan is considered an effective means of tackling environment-related health risks and achieving better implementation of EU environmental law.

Background

A European Commission consultation document (or 'Green Paper') for the EU's 2030 climate and energy policy mentions a potential greenhouse gas emission-reduction target of 40%, and does not close the door on a 30% target for the proportion of energy that renewables should make up by 2030.

But the consultation document suggests that any new energy savings goal be delayed until after a review of progress towards reaching the bloc’s 2020 target in June 2014, despite recognising that this goal was non- binding, and unlikely to be met.

The EU currently has three 2020 climate plans – for 20% improvements on the continent’s CO2 emissions, renewables and energy consumption performances. This latter figure is to be met by a variety of means.

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