Edie explains: The EU climate talks

The European Council - 28 EU Government leaders - will meet this week (23-24 October) in Brussels to discuss and reach a final agreement on the 2030 climate and energy policy framework.

In the next of our ‘Explains’ series, edie has brought together all the information you need to know about the upcoming climate talks and how the outcomes could affect your business.

Some background…

On January 22 this year the European Commission held a meeting to establish the EU 2030 energy and climate framework White Paper and announce targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and renewables generation.

In March it emerged that the EU had put off making a decision on its 2030 climate and energy policy package until October on the basis that leaders couldn’t agree on fair targets.

What are these talks about?

The main objective of the October climate talks is for EU leaders to reach agreement on the outlines of the 2030 EU’s climate and energy policy. The EU leaders must also agree on which targets should be binding.

The three topics up for discussion are as follows:

– The percentage by which greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions should be reduced by 2030.

– The percentage of energy that should come from renewables by 2030.

– The percentage by which the EU’s energy efficiency should be improved by 2030. 

Who’s attending? 

The Government leaders of each of the 28 Member States will be meeting to decide whether targets should be set at European level or at national Member State level. The European Council meeting will be chaired by former Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy.

The challenge will be persuading individual Member States to do their part if targets are only set at EU level. However, setting targets in individual states could prove problematic because leaders disagree about many aspects of the policy framework.

Affluent countries such as Germany and Denmark, whose own emissions records are good, are calling for ambitious EU targets, whilst countries with poorer emissions records – such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – are opposed to the current targets, believing that they should be lower.

International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) European policy director Sarah Deblock said: “Having a unified European approach is usually much more cost effective for businesses than national policies, which differ from country to country.”

Possible outcomes

In its White Paper, published in January, the EU outlined its targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction, renewable energy generation and efficiency improvement. They are:

The target to reduce EU domestic GHG emissions by 40% by 2030.
A binding target to increase the EU’s energy generated from renewables to at least 27% by 2030.

An energy efficiency improvement target of 30% for 2030.

What could this mean for business?

By reducing GHG emissions and producing more energy from renewables, a company can reduce costs and improve environmental performance, in turn improving its reputation and attracting more business.

A recent study by utility software firm Opower revealed that UK businesses have the potential to save up to 2.2TWh of energy every year – representing almost £500m in utility bills – through simple energy efficiency changes and implementations.

Improving energy efficiency also has long term cost benefits.

In a signed letter to the Commission last year, members of the European Alliance to Save Energy stated that a binding policy framework for energy efficiency can help European businesses invest and offer appropriate, affordable and accessible technologies and solutions that are essential for the development of the low carbon economy.

EU Climate Talks: Edie Timeline 

27 March 2013: the European Commission publishes its Green Paper focusing on developing a 2030 framework for EU climate change and energy policies.

23 Sep 2013: business leaders urge minsters to support binding 2030 energy savings targets.

11 Oct 2013: a group of European multinational companies call on the European Commission to adopt a 2030 energy efficiency policy framework that provides a long-term and certain legislative perspective.

9 Jan 2014: MEPs vote in favour of binding 2030 climate targets

20 Jan 2014: the business community represented by the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE) calls for the European Commission to establish a 40% binding energy savings target for 2030.

22 Jan 2014: EU Commissioners establish the EU 2030 energy and climate framework White Paper, announcing targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and renewables generation but leaving out an energy efficiency target.

20 March 2014: the European Commission launches climate change action initiative for cities

21 March 2014: the EU puts off making a decision on the regions 2030 climate and energy policy package until October.

6 June 2014: Friends of the Earth Europe tells European politicians that climate talks ‘must deliver people-centred solutions’ following US and China developments

23 July 2014: the European Commission’s 30% efficiency target is criticised by energy campaigners

9 Sep 2014: the IEA says that energy efficiency is key for economic and social development

6 Oct 2014: a study is published by Cambridge Econometrics suggesting that a tougher energy efficiency target would boost UK economy by £62bn

8 Oct 2014: a group of big businesses and environmental organisations push EU leaders to lay out a clear 2030 energy and climate policy framework.

14 Oct 2014: a chorus of big businesses, energy firms and trade associations again call on EU heads of state to deliver a binding renewable energy target of at least 30% by 2030.

Lois Vallely

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