Pressure grows for stronger climate and energy action

Today's vote in the European Parliament's powerful Environment Committee and the launch of a new report by the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) have increased the pressure for a higher EU emissions reduction target and a renewable energy target for 2030.
Pressure grows for stronger climate and energy action

Before the end of 2011, the EU should pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 (from 1990 levels), says a resolution voted by the Environment Committee today. Limited scope for offsets should be allowed, but a 25% reduction should be achieved domestically, say MEPs. This would create millions of additional jobs in the EU and yield other economic benefits, they add.

The committee's verdict (44 in favour, 14 against, 1 abstention) paves the way for a plenary vote, scheduled for 23 June. Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL), who drafted the resolution, said: "The European Parliament's position has been shifting over the last year. There is now broad support for a 30% reduction target and a growing realisation that ambitious climate policies are in Europe's own economic interest."

25% domestic reductions

The Environment Committee wants the EU to set an unconditional 30% target as soon as possible, and in any event before the end of 2011. As with the existing 20% reduction commitment, there should be some scope to include "offsets" funded in other parts of the world, but the EU should undertake to achieve 25% greenhouse gas reductions on its own territory, it adds.

The resolution recognises that achieving these targets will depend greatly on the EU meeting its renewable energy and energy efficiency targets. National measures, such as investment in innovation and tax breaks, can play a major part. At EU level, the committee considers that an adjustment of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) may be needed in future.

These reductions are intended as a step towards the shared EU and UN goal of limiting average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, which scientists advise is a major tipping point for overwhelming risk of the worst effects of climate change.

Economic crisis, economic benefits

MEPs note that the EU's CO2 emission reductions from the 1990 baseline already topped 17% in 2009, helped by the economic crisis. Looking ahead, they say that raising the bar to a 30% reduction target will bring many economic benefits. The resolution cites a study which estimates that 6 million new jobs could be created. Higher targets will also pose challenges for some sectors, although MEPs note that most energy-intensive industries benefit from special measures under the ETS scheme.

"This is a very positive signal for the EU industry. It is in the EU's interest to reduce emissions at home and hence develop its green industry even further, as it holds a clear competitive advantage in renewable technologies", said Rémi Gruet, European Wind Energy Association Senior Regulatory Affairs Advisor for climate and environment. "Heavy use of clean development mechanisms and joint implementation offsets outside the EU will only be beneficial for our international competitors, such as China".

The resolution also acknowledges the many positive impacts of higher climate protection and higher production of renewable energy, including six million potential additional jobs and a more competitive European Union.

The proposal for a binding 45% renewable energy target by 2030, made by the European Renewable Energy Council in a new report launched today in Brussels, would have similarly positive impacts.

"EWEA fully supports a 45% renewable energy target for 2030," said Gruet. "€400 billion need to be invested in new power generation over the next two decades. EU governments must send a clear message that such investments must be made in renewable energy sources. A new regulatory framework covering the period after 2020 needs to be in place by 2014 - within the lifetime of this Parliament and Commission".

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