EU slammed for lack of ambition in 2030 deal

24th October 2014

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Douglas Leech

The agreement brokered by EU heads of state on 2030 climate change targets has drawn widespread criticism for lacking ambition, in particular on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The deal, agreed after negotiations continued late into the night, includes a headline target to reduce GHG emissions by 40% against 1990 levels by 2030. It also requires at least 27% of energy to come from renewable source and energy savings of a similar magnitude.

The greenhouse-gas reduction target will be delivered collectively by member states, with the emissions trading system (ETS) acting as the main instrument. Sectors covered by the ETS will need to achieve a 43% reduction, while those outside the system will have to reduce their emissions by 30%.

Existing free allocation of permits will not end after 2020 in order to prevent the risk of carbon leakage, the council said. Member states with a GDP per capita below 60% of the EU average will be allowed to continue to give free allowances to their energy sector up to 2030.

Two per cent of ETS allowances will be set aside to pay for financial support for these low income states to improve energy efficiency and modernise their energy systems. The European Investment Bank will be involved in selecting the projects that qualify for financial assistance.

The target for at least 27% of energy to come from renewable energy by 2030 is binding at EU level, with member states free to set their own more ambitious targets. On energy efficiency, the council agreed to review the target in 2020, with a view to raising it to 30%.

Energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey said: “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.”

However, reaction to the deal from the environment sector was mostly negative, with environmental campaign groups in particular deploring the renewable and energy efficiency targets as little more than business as usual. the environmentalist provides a round-up of reaction below:


Martin Baxter, executive director of policy at IEMA, said that the commitments announced should be a minimum baseline. “We are disappointed with the UK government’s position on energy efficiency and call for a step change in political ambition and leadership on climate change, this most critical issue of our times,” he said.

Aldersgate Group

Nick Molho, executive director at the Aldersgate Group welcomed the greenhouse gas emission target, which leaves open the option to increase the target if a global deal on climate change is reached next year.

But he added: "It is on the other hand disappointing that the package contains insufficient ambition on energy efficiency, one of the cheapest ways of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, protecting consumers against rising energy bills and improving energy security.”


EEF’s head of climate and environment policy Gareth Stace welcomed the recognition by leaders of the importance of protecting carbon-intensive industries threatened by overseas competitors from the full costs of the ETS.

“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,” he said.

UK Green Building Council

John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK Green Building Council, said that the lack of a stretching target on energy efficiency meant that the opportunity has been lost to meet the emissions reduction target in the most cost-effective way.

“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.”


Jeremy Wates, EEB Secretary General, said: “Adopting a set of targets to cut energy waste by 40%, roll out sustainable renewables to 45% of the energy mix and cut emissions by 60% is what the science of climate change demands, and is also what will help Europe get on its feet.”

Climate Change Capital

Martin Schoenberg, head of policy at Climate Change Capital, said: “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.”

Green Party MEP Claude Turmes

“The European Parliament and the new EU Commission should dismiss and largely ignore this scandalously weak outcome imposed by Poland, UK and also France and move forward with progressive and responsible legislative proposals on a high efficiency, high renewables, and high interconnectivity EU energy union.”


Jason Anderson, head of EU climate and energy policy at WWF European Policy Office said: “These renewable energy and efficiency targets are near or even below business as usual trends. The carbon market that will remain irrelevant for a decade and there’s nothing here to reign in coal power. Europe’s early efforts to combat climate change and advance clean energy have been set adrift by Council.


Greenpeace EU managing director Mahi Sideridou said: “New commission president Juncker and his team 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.”

Friends of the Earth

Molly Walsh, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The EU can achieve a much higher share for renewables by involving citizens in producing and controlling their own energy but this potential is being blocked by dirty energy corporations.”


Nusa Urbancic, clean energy manager of T&E, said: “The deal has “generic but useful language” on the promotion of energy efficiency in transport and accelerating the move to electric transport. However, the agreement includes the possibility for EU countries to include transport in the ETS, which will not reduce transport emissions while postponing the transformation of the sector. It is also lacking in detail on the promotion of renewable energy in transport.

Urbancic said: “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.

Green Alliance

Matthew Spencer, director of the Green Alliance argued that the 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,” he said.


Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “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.”

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