European leaders strike emissions deal

European leaders agreed on a package binding emission targets, and, crucially, binding renewables and energy efficiency goals designed to achieve these, at the European Council meeting this Friday.

The leaders accepted the binding goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020 across the EU, proposed in the EU Energy Strategy, and as well as binding targets of raising the share of renewables in the energy mix.

Europe pledged to raise the bar to 30% if it is joined by other developed nations.

"This text is indeed a breakthrough as regards the environment and climate change policy of the European Union," said German chancellor Angela Merkel who chaired the meeting.

Binding goals were opposed by Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia but an agreement was reached with the compromise of giving member states a say in the way the EU-wide target will be transposed to targets for individual states.

The compromise is meant to help small countries like Malta, where renewables only constituted 0.31% in 2005, and those that strongly rely on coal or nuclear, like Poland or France. Renewables provided only 1.6% of Britain's energy in 2005 - far behind European green energy leaders like Latvia (40%) or Sweden (29.6%).

The goals should help hoist the share of renewables in the EU's overall energy mix, which currently average out at 6.38%.

A voluntary goal of sourcing 12% of European energy from renewables is unlikely to be met, but EU leaders endorsed another target - that of bringing the share of bio-ethanol and bio-diesel in the fuel mix up to 10% by 2020.

France, which sources 70% of its power from nuclear, tried to get nuclear power stations included under the 'non-carbon' label, but only succeeded in adding an acknowledgement of the role of nuclear in "meeting growing concerns about safety of energy supply and CO2 emissions reductions while ensuring that nuclear safety and security are paramount in the decision-making process" to the text.

Goska Romanowicz


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