European Commission abandons plans to raise climate ambition

An open pit lignite mine - Jänschwalde - close to Atterwasch, Germany. [Christian-Huschga/350.org]

The European Commission has given up plans to ramp up Europe’s 40% emissions reduction goal for 2030 to 45%, according to German media. But the EU executive insists that a formal increase was never on the table.

In October 2014, EU leaders agreed on cutting emissions by 40% compared with 1990 levels by the end of the next decade. But since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 and the EU has nearly finalised 2016’s Clean Energy Package that figure has been called into question.

EU energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said earlier this year that the bloc would “de facto” hit 45% thanks to the new laws on renewables and energy efficiency, suggesting the EU could make the figure legally binding.

Cañete: EU ‘de facto’ upping carbon reduction pledge to -45%

The EU’s top energy and climate official revealed on Wednesday (20 June) that the bloc is now set to increase its emissions reduction pledge from 40% by 2030 to 45%, after EU negotiators sealed agreements on three clean energy laws in the past fortnight.

But the Commission told EURACTIV that Cañete never actually announced an official target increase. Changing the target would mean agreement in the Council, which looks unlikely given the opposition of countries like Germany.

According to German media, both Cañete and Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had been in favour of tighter reduction goals to sharpen the EU’s environmental protection profile.

Together with other European lobby groups, the Federation of German Industries (BDI) opposed tighter targets while Chancellor Angela Merkel had said: “I think we should first stick to the goals we have already set for ourselves. I don’t think permanently setting ourselves new goals makes any sense.”

Merkel speaks out against more ambitious EU climate targets

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke against setting more ambitious EU climate targets on Sunday (26 August) but supported the idea of a transition towards a decarbonised transport sector. 

Germany’s opposition

NGO Germanwatch said the main reason for Cañete’s alleged backtrack was opposition from the German government.

“The devastating drought period this summer is hardly over, yet the German government already torpedoes potential success at the upcoming climate summit in Katowice, Poland,” said Christoph Bals, political director of the NGO. 

In his view, Germany is acting like a freight train brakeman when it comes to raising climate ambition.

“Real progress at the upcoming UN climate negotiations is unlikely without a European announcement to significantly increase its weak 2030 climate target,” he said. 

Bals added that Berlin’s rejection of both EU car emission targets and Canete’s suggestion within only a few days also means that Berlin is no longer in favour of the coalition agreement to “definitely” reach the German climate targets for 2030.

“Germany cannot reach its own climate goals without ambitious European climate and transport targets. The Federal government should now show how it will achieve its 2030 climate goal,” he said.

Bals also called on Berlin not to abandon European partnerships such as the French-German cooperation climate.

Both countries agreed in June to ensure that the EU meets its commitment to adjust its 2030 climate target in Katowice.

“The Federal government must now clarify that this agreement applies. Otherwise, it also endangers the French-German cooperation,” Bals said. 

Germany pours cold water on EU’s clean energy ambitions

Voters across Europe have lost faith in politics partly because of “unachievable targets” on renewable energy, said German Energy Minister Peter Altmaier, who rejected calls from a group of other EU countries to boost the share of renewables to 33-35% of the bloc’s energy mix by 2030.

German Energy ministry not commenting

The German economy and energy ministry told EURACTIV in an e-mailed reply that it did not want to comment on Germanwatch’s position.

Instead, it stressed that the coalition agreement contains a clear commitment to the climate targets agreed at national, European and climate change conventions, as well as a clear link to the 2050 Climate Action Plan and the sectoral objectives set out there, so that the national 2030 target should be met in any case.

“The Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment, which is currently preparing proposals, plays a key role in deciding what action is to be taken in the energy sector, with implications also for industry and the building sector. We cannot anticipate these political processes,” the ministry said, referring to what has been dubbed in Germany as the ‘coal commission’.

It also pointed out that Minister Peter Altmaier had already commented on the Commission’s proposals on CO2 limits for cars at the EU level, stressing that he supports the Commission’s proposals but considers them ambitious.

Germany selects lower gear, supports 30% CO2 car cuts

Germany’s environment ministry revealed on Wednesday (26 September) that the Bundesrepublik will back an EU-wide 30% CO2 cut for cars and vans – lower than expected by green NGOs – ahead of an important vote in the European Parliament next week.

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