By John Parnell
EU heads of state have agreed to look at the bloc’s 2030 climate and energy targets this year as it continues preparations for the 2015 UN climate deal.
The conclusions of a European Council meeting yesterday stated that the 2030 policies should bear “in mind the objectives set for the COP21 [UN talks] in 2015”.
Governments have pledged to develop a universal climate treaty through the UNFCCC by the end of 2015 with France hosting the potentially decisive round of negotiations. Poland will host this year’s talks.
A Green Paper presenting a tentative framework for 2030 EU energy and climate policy was released in March this year with a 40% emissions reduction target suggested.
Speaking at the time of the release Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network Europe said: “I think [Climate action Commissioner] Hedegaard and a few other commissioners supporting her, have been trying to make it more balanced but across the whole commission, competitiveness has been more important than climate change.”
Yesterday the European Council stressed the importance of maintaining price competitive energy supplies with a presentation by President Barroso highlighting the gulf in prices between the USA and Europe.
The Council conclusions were in the end more supportive of climate policy than some had anticipated.
“This also shows that while it is extremely important to address the issues of competitiveness and energy costs, Europe’s leaders also realise that the climate challenge remains urgent and that the way forward for Europe is to have climate and energy policies that go hand in hand,” said Connie Hedegaard, climate change commissioner.
China and the USA have been viewed as softening their stance on climate action recently. Some feel the EU has been stepping back on its leadership position after failing to back reforms to its ailing carbon market.
“Watering down climate action in Europe is dangerous given the international context and the status of the negotiations,” Tomas Wyns, director of the Center for Clean Air Policy-Europe (CCAP) told RTCC.
“Our diplomatic strength in these international negotiations partially depends on the credibility of our domestic policies, including the one we set up for 2030. Especially since we are organising two COPs in Europe in the next three years.”
Wyns points out that a focus on energy prices alone would be overly simplistic. Low cost energy in the USA owes a lot to investment in the shale gas sector from within the industry and a stimulus package from President Obama’s first term.
“If you only look at energy prices in Europe and say ‘well that needs to be fixed then we’ll be more competitive’ that’s not going to help. The main issue is that demand is low and the general economic context is really bad. That’s the issue that policy makers should be focusing on much more,” suggested Wyns.