The Commission invites EU members to move forward ‘unilaterally’ with a 20% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020 in a bid to reduce its dependency on imported fuels and trigger a new ‘industrial revolution’.
The Commission unveiled eagerly awaited energy proposals on 10 January 2007 in a move which, it hopes, will “set the pace for a new global industrial revolution” and increase EU resilience to future oil-price shocks.
“If we take the right decisions now, Europe can lead the world to a new industrial revolution: the development of a low-carbon economy,” said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
Central to the proposals is a binding target to slash the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the objective should be pursued “unilaterally … even if there is no international agreement on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions” after 2012 when the Kyoto targets expire.
At the international level, the Commission proposes that member states endorse an EU objective of 30% reduction in greenhouse gases by developed nations by 2020.
To achieve these objectives, Brussels proposes:
- Completing the internal market for electricity and gas (EURACTIV 9/01/07);
- a 20% target for renewables in the EU’s overall energy mix by 2020 (current target is 10% for 2010);
- an obligation for each member state to have 10% biofuels in their transport fuel mix by 2020;
- saving 20% of total primary energy consumption by 2020, an objective already expressed last year in an energy efficiency action plan. New initiatives here include proposals for an international agreement on energy-efficiency standards in appliance-producing countries;
- aiming towards “a low CO2 fossil fuel future” with support for ‘clean coal’ technology , using carbon capture and storage deep underground. “Coal and gas account for over 50% of the EU’s electricity supply and will remain an important part of our energy mix,” the Commission said;
- developing a common external energy policy to “actively pursue Europe’s interests” on the international scene with major supplier, consumer and transit countries, including Russia;
- developing a European Strategic Energy Technology Plan to focus R&D efforts on low carbon technologies, and;
- on nuclear, the Commission chose to take an “agnostic” stance, leaving it up to member states to decide.
However, member states would be given the flexibility to decide how best to achieve the overall target on renewables, in order to take account of specific national circumstances. And a specific objective for electricity produced form renewables, which an EU directive currently sets at 21% by 2010, has been dropped in the Commission plans.
But at the same time, Brussels proposes that EU members be required to establish National Action Plans outlining specific objectives and sectoral targets for each of the renewable energy sectors – electricity, biofuels, heating and cooling.
Progress would be monitored by the Commission in a series of biannual reports.