Calls for deeper carbon cuts as EU debates 2030 climate deal

Experts urge ambition ahead of European Council meeting to sign off the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework

By Megan Darby

Climate and energy experts are pushing for deeper EU carbon cuts by 2030 as national leaders prepare to sign off a package this week.

A draft agreement dated 16 October, seen by RTCC, continues to target a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of next decade.

Eastern European states, led by Poland, are lobbying hard for lower targets, while Sweden has come out in favour of a 50% goal.

As negotiators haggle over last-minute amendments to the climate change package, researchers are weighing in with recommendations.

Brigitte Knopf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said a 40% target would be “an important step” to limit the risks of manmade global warming.

But it is “the minimum” that needs to be done, she added.

Energy security

Consultancy Ecofys is recommending moves to limit natural gas use that will slash emissions by 49% as well as boosting energy security.

In response to geopolitical uncertainty in Ukraine and Russia, Ecofys argues “cost-effective” energy efficiency measures and “realistic” renewable developments could halve the EU’s gas imports.

Commissioned by the Open Climate Network, the report said it was possible to slash gas consumption from buildings 58%, from industry 20% and from power generation 63% from projected levels.

“Contrary to popular belief, Europe is not dependent on natural gas from volatile regions,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy program at WRI.

“This analysis shows that the EU can cut natural gas imports in half without raising costs for consumers.

“This is a win-win approach for the EU, increasing its energy security and raising the bar for climate action.”

Green jobs

Meanwhile, EY is warning Europe’s low carbon sectors could lose out in the global marketplace if its leaders fail to agree ambitious targets.

Green industries such as renewable energy, electric vehicles and smart grids could create several million jobs in Europe by 2020, the report found.

But other parts of the world are increasingly competing to lead these industries, it noted, while EU renewable investments fell 58% between 2011 and 2013.

Alexis Gazzo, partner in cleantech and sustainability at EY in France, said: “The conclusions of this report are very timely.

“The upcoming decision on the EU2030 climate and energy package and the new jobs, growth and investment package expected early next year are opportunities for the EU to help secure market shares that will be worth hundreds of billions of dollars by the turn of the decade.

“Failure to agree on ambitious long-term targets that provide the right investment signal would mean Europe would lose momentum.”

Three targets

National leaders are expected to agree three 2030 targets when they meet on 23 and 24 October.

These include a 30% improvement in energy efficiency and a 27% share of energy from renewables, as well as the emissions target.

Disagreements persist between member states on the level of ambition for these targets and whether they should be binding.

Leaders are set to confirm that a reformed version of the ailing emissions trading system (ETS) will be the main instrument to cut emissions.

The Potsdam Institute has recommended introducing a floor price for emissions allowances, to give investors greater certainty.

Chief economist Ottmar Edenhofer said: “It is about time now to fix the most important instrument of the European climate policy, the emissions trading system EU ETS. Without a working ETS, it’s difficult to see the climate targets to be put in practice.”

Free ride

Despite evidence major industrial emitters are sitting on a surplus of pollution permits, the latest draft promises to continue giving away some allowances for free.

This is intended to prevent “carbon leakage” – heavy industry relocating to parts of the world with looser regulations.

The deal will also outline measures to transfer funds from rich to poor member states, to help the latter meet their obligations.

This will be critical to get Poland on board. Deputy prime minister Janusz Piechocinski last week threatened to veto the deal, saying the 40% target “destroys half of European industry”.

The latest text earmarks the funds from selling 1-2% of ETS allowances to help low income member states “modernise” their energy systems and improve efficiency.

In an update to the previous draft, it promises the use of these funds will be “fully transparent” and managed by the European Investment Bank.

Experts had raised concerns the cash could be spent on new coal plants in Poland, running counter to the EU’s climate goals.

Energy islands

In what appears to be a diplomatic step backwards, the latest draft removes mention of a 15% interconnection target, to link up “energy islands”.

This is a red-line issue for Portugal, which wants to sell its abundant renewable power to the rest of the continent.

Spain, Malta, Cyprus and Greece are also keen for better connections, which can help make the market more efficient and reliable overall.

But countries like France have raised concerns such links will destabilise their grid.

A strong package will be critical to build consensus for a global climate deal in Paris next year, negotiators have told RTCC.

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