Ambitious or weak? Reaction to the EU’s 2030 climate package

Business leaders, NGOs and politicians give their verdict on the European Union’s 2030 energy and climate change targets

Low or high carbon? Europe's climate policies will influence the course of investment (Pic: Flickr/missresincup)

Low or high carbon? Europe’s climate policies will influence the course of investment
(Pic: Flickr/missresincup)

By Megan Darby

European leaders have signed off a package of energy and climate change targets for 2030.

It is a significant milestone on the road to an international climate agreement in Paris next year.

The binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions “at least” 40% on 1990 levels is arguably the strongest climate commitment in the world, albeit not yet enough to limit warming to 2C.

Supporting targets of 27% energy from renewable sources and 27% improvement in energy efficiency are lower than these green industries would like – and not binding on member states.

And sweeteners for heavy industry to stop them moving abroad risk undermining the ambition of the package.

We round up the reaction.

Ed Davey, UK energy and climate change secretary

This is a historic moment. Europe has sent a clear and firm message to the world that ambitious climate action is needed now.

True to our word, we have delivered a highly ambitious EU climate target while also significantly strengthening Europe’s energy security by making us less reliant on imported energy.

This morning only five countries in Europe had climate targets post -2020, now 28 countries do.

The UK has been leading the climate debate pushing for an ambitious deal in Europe and by building alliances and working constructively with our European partners, we’ve agreed a package of measures that meet all the UK’s top priorities.

It lays down the gauntlet to the world to come forward with ambitious climate targets, reforms EU energy policy so it’s flexible and affordable and tackles energy security – reducing Europe’s energy import bill for fossil fuels by around €285 billion by 2030.

Matthew Spencer, Green Alliance

The EU2030 carbon reduction agreement is real progress because it locks 27 other European countries into the same emissions reduction trajectory set by the UK’s Climate Change Act.

The fourth carbon budget pathway has now been adopted by the world’s largest trading block which makes it many times more powerful, and avoids the UK being isolated.

Ed Davey’s green growth group deserves much of the credit for keeping a decent carbon reduction target in the deal.

The non-binding nature of the agreement on energy saving and renewables, at the  UK’s insistence, means that the onus is now on the prime minister to show how he’ll use the “flexibility” secured in the deal to ramp up the UK’s low carbon energy programme.

Jennifer Morgan, World Resources Institute

The European Union has sent a positive signal to the world, showing that it is still serious about tackling climate change.

Despite facing a dismal recession and difficult internal debate, European leaders demonstrated their resolve by staying the course. The “at least 40%” carbon reduction target leaves the door open for the ambition necessary to rise to the climate challenge.

At the same time, it is clear that all of the targets could have been – and should have been – more ambitious.

Recent analysis shows that Europe can achieve carbon reductions of 49% by cutting natural gas imports in half and investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. This would be a win-win for the EU, increasing its energy security and raising the bar for climate action.

The EU should continue to strive for a stronger suite of actions that inspire countries to bring ambitious commitments to the table at the climate talks in Paris in December 2015.

Jonathan Grant, PwC

The EU is showing leadership again on climate change, but the question is who will follow?

The 2030 target implies a significant decarbonisation of the electricity system by that date. The GHG targets are broadly in line with the EU’s 2050 goal of 80% reduction in emissions which will require a new energy revolution in our homes and factories and on the streets.

Overall, the package looks ambitious compared with commitments made by other developed and emerging economies.

Mahi Sideridou, Greenpeace EU

The global fight against climate change needs radical shock treatment, but what the EU is offering is at best a whiff of smelling salts.

People across Europe want cleaner energy, but EU leaders are knocking the wind out of Europe’s booming renewables sector. Europe can and should do more to stop the most devastating impacts of climate change.

New Commission president Juncker and his team have said they want to make Europe a leader in renewable energy. They now need to table watertight climate and energy legislation.

Importantly, these new laws must stop giving dirty energy companies and polluting industries a free ride.

Marcus Ferdinand, Point Carbon Thomson Reuters

We estimate an average 2021-2030 carbon price of €23/t based on yesterday’s Council conclusions and with the stability reserve implemented as proposed by the Commission.

The redistribution mechanisms embedded in the package are set to channel some €35 billion towards Eastern Europe over the next decade, and were probably the deal-maker preventing Poland from acting on its threat to veto the entire deal.

Femke de Jong, Carbon Market Watch

By allowing companies to trade phantom pollution permits for real emission reductions, EU’s leaders are allowing  its hot air to weaken EU’s 2030 climate target, effectively only agreeing on a 31% target.

Nick Mabey, E3G

Europe’s leaders agreed a stronger than expected package on energy and climate change.

This puts pressure on the US and China to put forward early and ambitious targets for the Paris negotiations.

After months of dithering Europe is finally back in the global climate game.

Unfortunately concessions to special interests and eurosceptics mean that the package failed to do everything possible to lower energy bills for hard pressed consumers or reduce gas imports from Russia.

Many European leaders still seem to fear interference from Brussels more than Putin.

Martin Schoenberg, Climate Change Capital

The 40% target is the minimum needed to signal continued political commitment to decarbonisation and, taking into account the resistance even this modest target faced, to get an agreement is a major achievement.

The major problem is that there is no national accountability, only an EU wide one, on renewables and energy efficiency so the stage is set for even more tortuous talks and arguments between EU states, not all of whom will be willing to pull their weight.

It is essential that investors – who need long term certainty before they write the big cheques to decarbonise our energy supplies – get enough signals of purpose and stability from national governments to take the plunge.

The one thing that is clear is that setting a price for carbon, through the European Trading Scheme, is pivotal – although there is little being said about reforming the ETS. The present price for carbon is not high enough to deter polluters.

Stephanie Pfeifer, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change

Today’s agreement on a binding emissions reduction target of at least 40% is a positive step and a clear signal to investors. The EU must use this to help secure strong emissions pledges from other countries and drive progress towards an international agreement.

Given the potential for energy savings to reduce costs and boost energy security, the non-binding 27% energy efficiency target is disappointing and sends a weak signal. We would urge the Commission to revise this target well in advance of 2020.

The EU said today that the Emissions Trading System will be the main driver of emissions reductions. It can only do this when it is properly reformed, yet under the current plans this will not happen for another six years.

Waiting until 2021 before introducing the market stability reserve would compromise the ability of the ETS to deliver emissions reductions and new low carbon investment. The EU should bring forward the market stability reserve start date to 2017 to strengthen the carbon price and kick-start investment.

Richard Black, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU)

The EU deal was probably the best compromise that progressive countries could hope for, given concerns of various nations about coal-burning and competitiveness.

However, it is also a compromise with the climate system and with the needs of future generations. It’s not at all clear that this deal will allow the EU to meet its long-term target of virtually eliminating carbon emissions by mid-century, which science suggests is necessary for limiting global warming to 2C.

The next generation of European leaders may look back and conclude that this generation has given them a hospital pass.

Tobiasz Adamczewski, WWF Poland

Without binding national targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency, these two sectors will not develop properly in Poland.

Because of that, we are losing a chance to limit our dependence on coal and decrease imports of fossil fuels.

John Alker, UK Green Building Council

Having committed to an ambitious carbon reduction goal, it would have made sense to give ourselves the best chance of meeting that cost-effectively – with an equally stretching and mandatory energy efficiency target, both at EU and member state level.

Sadly, an opportunity to give a much needed boost to low carbon business across Europe has gone begging. A destination has been set, but we are effectively setting off on the journey with no map and no guarantee that we will actually get there.

Gareth Stace, EEF

EU leaders have signalled that they recognise the importance of protecting carbon-intensive industries threatened by overseas competitors from the full costs of the EU emissions trading system.

But we will be watching closely over the coming months to ensure these fine words translate into real action to improve what is currently a rather problematic protective system.

However, the EU-wide renewables and energy efficiency targets are a fudge that are unlikely to address the current inefficiencies caused by overlapping sets of goals and incentives.

Dirk Forrister, International Emissions Trading Association

Today’s agreement is the political signal that business has been looking for.

Investments in Europe’s low-carbon future need to be made now – this decision is a sign that such investments will still have a value beyond 2020.

IETA supports a GHG reduction target underpinned by the EU emissions trading system as the most cost-effective way to meet Europe’s climate goals.

The decision today to maintain the EU ETS as the EU’s main policy instrument to meet the emissions reduction target is a sign that Europe’s leaders continue to see its value and are serious about the market being the main driver for Europe’s decarbonisation.

However, market participants will also want reassurance that the other targets that were adopted will not serve to undermine cost-effective emission reductions in Europe.

Nusa Urbancic, Transport & Environment

The real-world impact of today’s adopted targets will very much hinge on how Europe will actually go about them.

It is up to the incoming Juncker Commission to make sure they are met in real life and not just on paper and give investors the right signals.

Keeping transport out of the ETS and adopting new fuel efficiency standards for all vehicles are one example.

Limiting the role of bioenergy and biofuels – zero emissions on paper, often a lot in reality – in favour of solar and wind is another.

Stefan Scheuer, Coalition for Energy Savings

One would expect leaders to lead. Instead, they are sending confused messages on energy efficiency.

In March energy efficiency was declared the top priority to increase energy security and boost growth.

Today the target presented is so low that it is meaningless and would prevent the EU from cutting gas dependency by a third.

Thomas Becker, European Wind Energy Association

The 27% [renewable energy] target is disappointing and is contrary to the incoming Commission’s plans to make Europe the world leader in renewables.

The EU urgently needs to put in place a legal and regulatory framework for renewable energy for the post-2020 period.

A governance structure will send a signal that Europe is open for business on renewables and will contribute to the region’s competitiveness, security and position in the global technology race.

Natalia Alonso, Oxfam

Today’s target of at least 40% of emissions reductions is welcome but only a first step, which falls far too short of what the EU needs to do to pull its weight in the fight against climate change.

Insufficient action like this from the world’s richest countries places yet more burden on the poorest people most affected by climate change, but least responsible for causing this crisis.

By leaving the possibility to increase the 40% target as part of the international negotiations, European leaders such as Merkel and Cameron acknowledge that what has been proposed is inadequate – today’s deal must set the floor not the ceiling of European action, and they must arrive in Paris with a more serious offer.

Mark Kenber, The Climate Group

We have a deal on the EU 2030 climate and energy package – and that’s a good thing. Europe is the first major economy to agree on its climate targets ahead of the Paris conference in 2015 and its leaders should be commended for that. It gets the ball rolling and paves the way for others to follow suit in the coming months.

The binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 is an important first step. But it won’t allow Europe to reclaim its position as a world climate leader. 40% is still not enough to put the EU on a path to net zero emissions by mid-century and kick start the transformational change we need. 40% must be seen as a floor which opens the door to increased ambition.

The two other targets are frankly disappointing. With a 27% renewable energy target by 2030, Europe set the bar too low to convince investors to move away from fossil fuels and switch to a low carbon economy. The 27% target for energy efficiency improvements, which is only “indicative,” doesn’t send the right signal and won’t convince businesses to make a step change in energy efficiency investment. The review clause by 2020 will be important to revise the ambition upward.

The business community was hoping for consistency from policy makers. They don’t have that yet. European leaders must now seize the opportunity to strengthen their ambitions and set the EU on a clear path to an innovative, prosperous, job-creating, low carbon future.

Sven Harmeling, CARE

Instead of putting an end to the global leadership vacuum on climate change, which could have triggered a step change in ambition to tackle the climate crisis, the EU has left poor countries and communities around the world with just a glimmer of hope that Europe will do its fair share of the heavy lifting needed to avert climate catastrophe.

Regrettably, EU leaders have shown they are not willing to fight tooth and nail to reduce emissions with the level of courage that science tells us we urgently need.

The agreement – to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 – is half-baked. The EU can and should have gone further to show that major emitting countries are serious about avoiding large-scale climate disruption.

Instead, the EU may be ushering in a new era of loss and damage from climate change impacts which is already, and will increasingly, hit billions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people hardest – this is an extreme, global, injustice.

Katja Hall, CBI 

A binding target of 40% emissions reduction is the right result to achieve our energy and climate goals.

The UK government has worked effectively with other allies to ensure member states have the flexibility to meet it in the way that best suits their own circumstances. Now the Commission must get on with the important task of reforming the EU emissions trading system, while making sure that our energy intensive industries get the support they need to maintain their competitiveness.

This agreement also lays a firm foundation for the climate negotiations next year in Paris, and Europe’s leaders must now work hard towards securing an equally ambitious target from other countries.

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