In parliament: Setting European carbon targets

11th March 2014

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  • Mitigation ,
  • UK government


Jon Lulham

Chris Davies MEP, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson in the European parliament, examines recent proposals for 2030 EU carbon targets and what will be needed to achieve them

By a margin of 30 votes or so, the European parliament called in January for a binding 30% renewable energy target for 2030, within the framework of a 40% reduction in CO2 compared with 1990 levels.

Days later the commission published its own energy and climate communication. It endorsed the CO2 ambition, proposed that renewable energy should supply 27% of EU needs by 2030, and called for member states to draw up national plans to suit their different circumstances. How these plans will be reconciled with the overall EU strategy has yet to be determined.

Nothing is certain about any of this. The parliament is in its “dog days”, with elections due on May 22 and no great likelihood that its successor will share its current environmental ambitions. The commission too is throwing its last dice, with internal divisions more apparent. Existing commissioners will see no more legislation carried and can, at best, hope only to secure some positive statements of intent from Europe’s governments.

Some energy ministers will insist that a 40% CO2 reduction should not be agreed in the absence of an international agreement. Others, led by UK energy secretary Ed Davey, will challenge the setting of a new renewable energy target, arguing – rightly in my view – that each country should reduce emissions in whatever way is most appropriate.

With the European Environment Agency claiming that the EU has already reduced its emissions by 24%, the proposed 2030 target is certainly within reach. But the bigger goal, achieving an 80%–95% reduction by 2050, will require long-term planning and significant investment.

The commission is fearful that some member states will shy away from the 2030 goal, so it is not asking governments to explain their long-term strategies. That may be good politics, but I’m not so sure it’s good sense.


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