MEPs fail to boost EU renewables, efficiency targets before COP21

The European Parliament’s energy committee today (10 November) rejected a push by MEPs to increase the EU’s 2030 climate and energy targets and to make them legally binding.

But the ITRE Committee did approve strong language demanding a role for the Parliament in the oversight of the Energy Union, the EU’s strategy to reduce the bloc’s vulnerability to shortages, and to bolster the fight against climate change.

MEPs from the Greens, Liberals, Europe of Freedom and Democracy group and Socialist and Democrats failed to get changes to the committee’s report on Energy Union.

The amendment – defeated by a single vote, according to Green MEP Claude Turmes – aimed to strengthen commitments made by EU leaders last October.

Leaders agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% compared to 1990 levels by 2030. That is a binding target. But heads of state and government watered down the 2030 targets for renewables and for energy efficiency, which are not binding at national level. 

They lowered a Commission-proposed 30% increase to at least 27%. That was seen as a backwards step after the binding 20% 2020 targets for efficiency and renewables agreed in the past.

>>Read: EU leaders adopt ‘flexible’ energy and climate targets for 2030

MEPs today called for three binding 2030 targets of at least 40% greenhouse gas emissions, at least 30% for renewables, and at least 40% for energy efficiency.

The amendment was rejected 31 votes to 30, after opposition from the majority European People’s Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.

Turmes blamed the Socialists for the defeat. Some had voted against the amendment, while others had not turned up to the committee meeting at all, he told EURACTIV.

But the Luxembourgish MEP was bullish that the amendment would be passed in a plenary vote of the Parliament in December.

Turmes said that energy efficiency, particularly through building renovation, was the best way to fight climate change.

>>Read: Renovation could save billions in grid investment, say researchers

>>Read: Cañete calls on cities and regions to focus on energy efficiency in buildings

“If you don’t want to be ambitious about energy efficiency, what is the answer to getting climate change at the lowest cost, while promoting productivity?,” he asked.

Later this month, world leaders will meet in Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris to try and agree an international deal to cap global warming. Depending on the results of the COP21, the European Commission and Council could revise the 2030 targets.

Today’s ITRE vote clashes with a European Parliament resolution, recently backed by MEPs, with COP21 in mind. It reiterated support for an earlier February 2014 Parliament resolution that backed stronger 2030 targets.

Monica Frassoni, the president of the European Alliance to Save Energy said, “How can the European Parliament be serious on the energy transition with such a scenario few days before COP21? The progressive business community calls for MEPs to reconfirm their ambitious position to guarantee investments in Europe and create local jobs.”

Lack of targets

The lack of binding renewables and efficiency targets at national level means that the Energy Union will need a governance framework to ensure the goals are met at EU level.

MEPs across the political groups supported the report’s call for the new governance framework to be “fully inclusive of the European Parliament.”

Turmes said the vote sent a message to the Commission’s Energy Union supremo Maroš Šef?ovi? before his expected announcement of the State of the Energy Union report next week. The report will sketch out the next step towards implementing the flagship strategy.

“This is very strong wording,” said Turmes, “It’s a message to Šef?ovi?  – don’t dare next week to try and side-line the Parliament.”

>>Read: EU-wide energy governance plans ‘lack teeth’

>>Read: Special Report: An Efficient Energy Union

The Energy Union is part of the political response to the threat to EU gas supplies. The majority of Russian gas imports to the EU, about 30% of its annual needs, goes through Ukraine. In 2009, Russia turned off the taps, causing shortages in the EU.

Plans for the Union have developed beyond questions of security of supply to encompass issues such as fighting climate change. 

The Renovate Europe campaign says that, thanks to modern technology, buildings' energy demands can be cut by 80%. But, it adds, in order for that to happen, there needs to be an effective regulatory and legislative framework in place. 

  • Next week: Expected launch of State of the Energy Union report by Commission
  • 15 December: Plenary vote on Energy Union report

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