Claude Turmes MEP: A net-zero emissions target by 2050 will be our red line

The three files – the energy efficiency directive, the renewables directive and the governance regulation – are all interlinked, says Claude Turmes. [© European Union 2017 - Source : EP]

Any country resisting an EU-wide objective to reduce emissions to net-zero by mid-century is essentially “in the same camp as Mr. Trump” when it comes to climate change, says Claude Turmes, the lead European Parliament negotiator on the Energy Union governance proposal.

Claude Turmes is a member of the European Parliament for Luxembourg, sitting with the Greens/EFA group. On 20 June, he will take up a new role in the Luxembourg government as state secretary for the environment.

Turmes is the Parliament’s rapporteur on the proposed regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union and will lead the European Parliament team in “trilogue” talks with the Council and the Commission taking place on Tuesday (19 June). He spoke to EURACTIV’s energy and environment editor, Frédéric Simon.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • All EU member states understand that their national energy and climate plans for 2030 will have to be made legally-binding.
  • But governments are still “very reluctant” to sign up to a policy vision for 2050, in line with Paris goals.
  • Some “fine-tuning” still needed on the proposed “gap-filler” mechanism for EU countries that do too little on carbon reduction, renewables, and energy efficiency.
  • The “red line” for Parliament is the objective to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
  • If no deal is reached at tonight’s trilogue, “a much nastier MEP” will be appointed to replace Turmes, who will leave on 20 June to take up new role in the Luxembourg government.

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How does the agreement on renewables last week influence the – potentially – final trilogue on the Energy Union governance regulation this Tuesday (19 June)? Will it be easier to strike a deal now on the governance regulation?

The three files – the energy efficiency directive, the renewables directive and the governance regulation – are all interlinked.

Now, the governance regulation is broader because it’s linked with the energy internal market and security of supply.

But it was always clear that they had to be negotiated together because of the “gap-filler” mechanism that we’re putting in place on the 2030 targets for renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

And I think we are almost there. The fact that we were able to come to an agreement last week on renewables raises the possibility that we get an agreement also on governance.

What were the main areas of progress and the key outstanding issues that remain after the last trilogue on 23 May?

I think we have come a long way. Governments now accept that there should be detailed, binding national energy and climate plans for 2030. And this is really a fundamental change.

Because we were coming from a situation where energy policies were largely uncoordinated, both at the EU and national level. There was a bit of efficiency policy here, a bit of renewable policy there, a bit of internal market policies and a bit of grid policy.

Now, we are getting everybody to do what was so evident – if you want a cost-effective energy transition, then all of this must be brought together. And that is what we will achieve.

So all member states agree that their national energy and climate plans for 2030 will be legally binding? There is no discussion on this?

There may be one or two countries which are unhappy with it. But we have a large majority in favour of that and this part of the deal is already done. There was an attempt by the Council to come up with wording that would dilute this but we spotted it and the Presidency had no argument to defend the line supported by some governments.

One other important achievement: when I started working on the governance regulation, it was mostly about investment certainty, which is very much linked to the 2030 plans. Because that gives the industry – renewables, efficiency, cables and so on – clear visibility over the next ten years.

The other thing which is necessary to deliver on the climate mitigation agenda is new partnerships. We have succeeded to get two of them.

The first is the partnership between local authorities and governments, which will be obligatory under the governance regulation. There will be a multi-stakeholder platform at the national level because even the best government cannot address this challenge alone – we need local policymaking which is much better at making the bridge with the citizens, small and medium-sized enterprises, and so on.

And the second kind of partnership is those looking beyond national borders. My original ideas of macro-regions working together – for example on offshore wind in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea or South-Eastern Europe – is now fully integrated into the text.

So this means governments are not only obliged to come up with detailed national plans, they also have to look for new partnerships beyond and below the national level.

EU paves way for final showdown on energy ‘governance’ bill

European Union legislators made progress Wednesday (23 May) on a draft EU law that sets a “trajectory” for the deployment of renewable energies in Europe and puts in place a “gap-filler” mechanism to ensure the bloc meets its 2030 energy and climate objectives.

And the key outstanding issues?

The first is the 2050 agenda. Governments are very reluctant to sign up to a policy vision for 2050, which I find surprising because all of the 28 EU countries have signed up to the Paris Agreement.

And that means adopting a carbon budget and aiming for net-zero emissions by mid-century. Because if the whole world has to achieve net-zero emissions in the second half of this century, developed countries have to take their fair share, in line with the principle of “shared but differentiated responsibility”. So it’s clear that the industrialised world will have to decarbonise earlier, which means by 2050 at the latest.

Therefore, I can’t understand the opposition from certain governments.  The good news is that some like France, Sweden, The Netherlands, Sweden and Portugal are now very aggressively supporting my position on this.

At the last trilogue, there was a first exchange of views on the “gap-filler” mechanism for the 2030 target on renewables and greenhouse gas reduction. What are the areas of consensus and those where disagreement remains?

I think that the Council, under the leadership of France and Germany, has come quite a long way in accepting that we need a robust governance of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy policy.

If we have an EU target and no national targets on renewables and CO2, it is the national governments that need to deliver. And therefore, in order to avoid an ambition gap, we have a complex mechanism whereby governments make pledges which are reviewed in due time. And if the member states don’t pledge enough to the EU target, the Commission can come back on those plans and request more from the member states.

And on that, we will try to do some more fine-tuning tomorrow evening (19 June). There is one question for instance on which nobody for the moment has an answer: what happens if one or more country deliberately submits no national plan? We need to find a solution to this kind of filibustering which could happen and has to be avoided.

On the ambition gap, I think the Council text there has moved in the Parliament’s direction. The more virtuous countries in Europe don’t want free-riding and they have already moved the Council in our direction. And then on the trajectory itself, the Parliament wants a more linear trajectory.

If we take climate change seriously, we need to move quickly out of coal. And if you want to move quickly out of coal, you need to replace it by something. So if you have a banana-shaped curve for renewables, where investments pick up in the second part of the decade, you will end up with a reverse-banana for coal, which means you will phase out coal very late. And this is not Paris-compatible.

Once a gap is identified, what happens next? For example, if one country does nothing on renewables, how can it be held accountable individually if there is no national target?

If individual countries make a pledge saying clearly where they want to be in 2030, it becomes a collective responsibility for each country to deliver on that pledge. If a country is not on track individually, then it has to come back on track.

That is still an open fight for the trilogue. The Council has a text where countries would need to get back on track only if the EU as a whole is derailed. That is a line which we don’t accept as Parliament and we will fight for that.

EU lawmakers agree ‘flexible’ renewable energy targets for 2030

Political groups in the European Parliament have sealed an agreement Tuesday evening (16 January) on a proposed Energy Union governance bill, assigning a strict yet flexible timeline for EU countries to meet the bloc’s 2030 objectives on renewable energy, EURACTIV has learnt.

Is the governance regulation an opportunity to strengthen the governance of the energy efficiency directive and agree a gap-filler mechanism there as well?

Yes.

How would that work?

It will work similarly to renewables. If the EU as a whole is not on track, then there needs to be new measures adopted. In contrast to renewables, the EU has big leverage to speed up energy efficiency in Europe. Whereas on renewables, it is largely the responsibility of the member states – I would say over 95% of the EU renewables target will be delivered by national governments.

On energy efficiency, the responsibility is different – it is probably more 60% EU and 40% national. Because at EU level we have a whole range of efficiency measures – eco-design, labelling, CO2 in cars, near-zero buildings, etc. And as soon as the EU as a whole is not on track, the Commission should think about tightening EU legislation accordingly.

And that is accepted by the member states?

It took them some time but in preparation of tomorrow evening’s meeting, the Bulgarian Presidency at the least seems to understand that this is only logic. And the Commission has understood this quite some time ago already.

The Parliament backed an objective in the governance regulation to reach “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050, with a carbon budget. What was the initial reaction of member states on this? Are they all on board?

No, unfortunately. This will probably be the one big fight at the trilogue. Look, the governments who are against net-zero emissions are the same who signed up to the Paris Agreement. Prime Ministers want to side-line Mr Trump. So I could put it like that: Anybody who is against net-zero emissions in 2050 basically is in the same camp as Mr Trump.

So that will be a red line for Parliament?

Yes, that will be a red line. And it will be a tough fight.

What are the areas on which the Parliament is open to compromise?

I think the Parliament has already shown quite a lot of flexibility on some technical aspects, in order to reduce the bureaucracy in the whole exercise. Parliament voted in favour of a nearly fully linear trajectory on the renewables and greenhouse gas emissions target and we will probably have to give in a little bit on that. Then that’s all.

At the end of the day, the only question we are asking ourselves in Parliament is: are we building a governance system which is robust enough to meet the Paris goals?

And if there is no agreement on 19 June, you’ll be leaving to the Luxembourg government the next day without any regret?

If there is no agreement, there may be a much nastier MEP than me appointed to take up my role as rapporteur for the governance regulation. And you will discover that on Wednesday.

Parliament backs ‘net-zero’ carbon emissions by 2050

Green lawmakers have hailed a “great victory for the climate” as a proposal to bring down to zero the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted in the atmosphere by 2050 received unexpected backing from the European Parliament yesterday (17 January).

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