Denmark puts 2030 emissions target on the agenda

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Europe’s 27 environment ministers will call for a 40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2030 if they follow draft conclusions – seen by EURACTIV – prepared by the Danish EU presidency ahead of a meeting on 9 March.

The Danish EU presidency wants the European Commission “to present timely options for delivering the reductions in the Low-Carbon Economy Roadmap to 2050 for the period to 2030,” while taking into account the “underlying assumptions” of EU nations.

The roadmap proposed a series of interim milestones on the way to reaching an overall 80%-95% cut by 2050, the minimum that scientists say is necessary to avoid global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius.

For 2030, a target of 40% of the bloc’s 1990 emissions is pencilled in. That goal rises to 60% by 2040 and 80% or more by 2050.

Green MEP Bas Eickhout welcomed the document for “providing a longer-term perspective which is very important for investments”, but he warned against splitting off emissions reductions from other EU objectives.

“If you are discussing 2030 [emissions reduction] targets, they should be combined with target-setting for renewables and energy efficiency as we have for 2020,” he told EURACTIV.

“That provides investment security for new industries and has been shown to deliver the right incentives for the future.”

Renewables and energy efficiency

EU sources said that new targets for renewables and energy efficiency were more likely to be approved at an energy ministers’ meeting than at the 9 March meeting of environment ministers.

But the question of interim CO2 reduction targets for 2030 might still provoke divisions. “We didn’t get concessions on this last time, so draw your own conclusions,” one EU diplomat said.

“Have things changed in between?" he asked. "We’ve had the Durban Climate Change Summit and that was arguably a success, so people may be looking at things in a different light. But I suspect that the same arguments will re-emerge.”

For energy companies with renewables portfolios, the issues never went away. In 2011, the Dutch power company Eneco called for binding 2030 targets – along with Dong Energy in Denmark and SSE in the UK.

Eneco spokesman Marcel Van Dun told EURACTIV that a Commission decision to move in this direction now “would contribute to a healthy and market-driven EU investment climate for renewable energy.”

“It would put Europe back in the driving seat in the worldwide transition to a future-proof, independent energy supply for our companies and citizens,” he said.

An increased EU target would also "imply increased carbon prices and thus provide the required incentives," he added.

Carbon price

As well as future objectives, ministerial minds at the summit will also be focused on a collapse in the carbon price, which has knocked the stuffing out of the global carbon market, and Europe’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Sandrine Dixson-Declève, the director of the Prince of Wales's EU Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), told EURACTIV that she wanted to see “something very strong coming out of the Commission” on the carbon price issue.

It was important “to send out a message that we are very supportive of a strong ETS and carbon price,” she said. “Our members believe that there needs to be a withdrawal of ETS allowances in order to tighten the system so that the price starts to go back up.”

The CLG’s members include corporate giants such as Shell, Alstom and Philips.

On 20 December 2011, the European Parliament’s environment committee called for a change in EU legislation to allow the withholding of allowances before the start of the ETS’s third phase in 2013.

But a crucial indicative vote will come on 28 February when the Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy will decide whether a “significant amount” of allowances will be taken out of the ETS’s Phase III auction.

While the EU environment ministers will inevitably discuss the Parliament vote’s outcome, the draft conclusion only “notes that a robust allowance price in the ETS in the third trading period is needed to deliver the necessary incentives for low-carbon investments; [it] furthermore notes that the present ETS allowance price provides substantially lower incentives than anticipated when the Climate and Energy Package was adopted; [and] acknowledges the need to pay due attention to the risk of carbon leakage.”

“That’s a lot of acknowledgment,” Eickhout commented wryly. “It is nice to see but the third ETS phase starts next year so the window of opportunity is closing.”

“We are way beyond the stage of acknowledgments,” he added. “We need to act.”

The EU has set itself a legally binding goal to reduce its emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020. If Europe's non-binding target of a 20% increase in energy efficiency by 2020 [on 2005 levels] were met, this would rise to 25%, the Low Carbon Roadmap for 2050 says. The EU has also pledged to raise its emissions reduction target to 30% if other countries make comparable commitments.

The EU agreed a new Renewable Energies Directive in December 2008, which turns into law its binding target to source 20% of the bloc's energy from renewable sources by 2020. The Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has said that a new interim renewables target for 2030 is now “more important than ever”.

In October 2009, EU leaders endorsed a long-term target of reducing collective developed country emissions by 80%-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. This is in line with the recommendations of the UN's scientific arm - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - for preventing catastrophic changes to the Earth's climate.

  • 28 Feb: The European Parliament's ITRE Committee vote on withholding ‘significant amounts’ of ETS allowances from Phase III of the ETS to increase carbon price.
  • 9 March: EU Environment Ministers meet in Brussels.
  • 2013-2020: Phase III of the EU ETS comes into effect.

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