EU energy and climate policy: two years on

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

“There is still some way to go” to translate the progress made by EU energy policy in recent years into “efficient policy responses,” writes Jørgen Henningsen, senior advisor on energy and environmental issues at the European Policy Centre (EPC).

The September paper argues that climate change has become the “main driver of EU energy policy,” with EU leaders keen to stress the progress made. It identifies the Commission’s March 2006 Green Paper on a new climate-focused policy as the beginning of continuous development “at the interface between energy and climate policy”. The high point of this process so far was the Commission’s package of energy and climate proposals released in January 2008, it asserts.

Despite the package having been hailed as an “impressive step towards meeting the objectives agreed at the highest political level within the EU,” Henningsen believes a “reality check” on the actual state of EU energy policy is needed to accompany the optimistic statements of Europe’s political leaders.

The EPC paper identifies a number of points that must be addressed if the EU is to achieve its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 or even 30 percent by 2020 efficiently, without “negative environmental or social impacts”:

  • The EU’s Emissions’ Trading Scheme (EU ETS) must be designed for the long-term predictability on which investment decisions are based. 
  • The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) must be uncoupled from the EU ETS to concentrate on direct support for “investment in climate-friendly technology in developing countries” instead. 
  • The very different situations of the various participants in the ETS must be recognised.
  • There must be more focus on energy savings and efficiency

Henningsen criticises the early introduction of a separate target for biofuels as well as insufficient sustainability criteria for them. He also wants a ban on the construction of new coal-fired installations without carbon capture and storage as these are incompatible with CO2 targets.

Finally, the paper calls for greater emphasis to be placed on a new climate agreement after 2012 in the policies and measures currently under international negotiation. Focusing almost exclusively on reduction targets risks “a weak agreement that closes off further opportunities for the next 12 years” and prevents developing countries from participating actively in the fight against climate change, Henningsen concludes.

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