Energy ministers from largest EU economies seek more ambitious emissions targets

Out-Law News | 09 Jan 2014 | 2:58 pm | 1 min. read

Energy ministers from the four largest EU economies have asked the European Commission to set "clear and unambiguous" greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets as part of its upcoming 2030 Climate and Energy proposals.

Energy and environment ministers from the UK, France, Germany and Italy have written to Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger calling for a 40% reduction in domestic greenhouse gas emissions against 1990 levels. The letter said that "ambitious" binding targets were necessary if the EU was to adopt a leading role at the next UN climate change summit in 2015, according to BusinessGreen, which had obtained a copy.

The letter also set out the economic advantages of delivering "policy certainty" quickly, including opportunities for investment in low carbon technologies worth "tens of millions", BusinessGreen said.

"To create these jobs in Europe, effective measures against carbon leakage, especially in energy-intensive sectors facing international competition, are necessary," the letter said. "Furthermore, an ambitious safe and sustainable decarbonisation strategy is essential for tackling Europe's key strategic energy challenges: the EU's declining indigenous energy resources and our growing import dependency on increasingly expensive and volatile fossil fuels."

Separately, Germany, France and Italy have also written to the commissioners asking for a new renewable energy generation target for 2030.

The European Commission is expected to publish its 2030 Climate and Energy package on 22 January, which will update its 2020 energy and climate change targets ahead of global negotiations. EU member states are expected cut emissions and energy use by 20% against  1990 levels by 2020.

Increasing the EU's carbon reduction target is one of a number of options that the Commission has proposed as part of its long-term structural reform of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), needed to address the build-up of carbon allowances and falling prices caused by a lack of industrial activity during the economic downturn. Proposals allowing the Commission to 'backload' up to 900 million allowances that would otherwise have been made available for auction between 2013 and 2015 until 2019 and 2020 have now been approved by EU member states.

"Backloading is now a reality, and the Commission hopes that the first allowances can be backloaded very soon," Hedegaard said, following the positive vote by member states' representatives. "But while backloading will help stabilise the carbon market in the coming years, we must also tackle the more structural challenges. The Commission will address these when it proposes the 2030 climate and energy framework later this month."