Newly elected European Commission chief support for binding efficiency target praised by green groups
By Sophie Yeo
Designated European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker supported a 30% minimum target for energy efficiency across the EU in a speech before the Parliament today.
Confirmed as the next Commission president by MEPs today, Juncker called for a binding energy efficiency target and more renewable energy across the 28-state bloc.
“A binding 30% energy efficiency target is for me the minimum,” he said.
The EU is currently working on a package of measures guiding climate policy up to 2030.
These proposals, put forward by the Commission and due to be finalised by the Council in October, set a 40% target for greenhouse gas reductions and a 27% target for renewable energy.
An energy efficiency target is still pending. The EU is not on track to meet its current efficiency goal of 20%, which is non-binding for member states.
The formal legislation will be drawn up under Juncker’s mandate after he starts his tenure as Commission president in November, following the approval of the general principles in October.
Energy efficiency has received greater attention in recent months as a means to boost the EU’s energy security by reducing the need to import gas from Russia – an argument that could help to win around eastern European countries that are concerned about the costs of upgrading to a more efficient infrastructure.
Some green groups have called for a 40% binding energy efficiency target. Analysis by consultants at Ecofys suggests that this higher target could mean the EU’s overall greenhouse gas emissions goal is more easily achieved.
“I find it encouraging that Juncker has made this commitment, but the number is something that still has to be discussed,” said Stefan Scheuer, head of the Brussels-based Coalition for Energy Savings, which supports a 40% target. “We believe 30% is a number that would represent a continuation of existing policies.”
In a document setting out his policy agenda for the EU, Juncker said that he would also support a European Energy Union, which would see a common energy policy implemented by member states.
Key to this energy union would be renewables, he said, adding that Europe should be “number one” in this field.
“This is not only a matter of a responsible climate change policy. It is, at the same time, an industrial policy imperative if we still want to have affordable energy at our disposal in the medium term. I strongly believe in the potential of green growth,” he writes.
He added that the EU should continue to lead in the international climate negotiations, which are supposed to conclude next year in Paris with a global deal that will keep global warming below dangerous levels. “We owe this to future generations,” he says.
Last week, Juncker told Green party MEPs that he was opposed to fracking – a controversial method of extracting shale gas condemned by many green groups and some member states. France has a moratorium on the technology.
Mark Breddy, Greenpeace EU spokesperson, welcomed Juncker’s remarks: “Some of Juncker’s statements are encouraging. He recognises the importance of renewables and energy efficiency to make Europe more competitive and less dependent on imported energy. He also realises that Europe’s credibility on climate change depends on progress in these areas.
“But speeches are one thing, action is something else. We’ll judge Juncker on his political record.”