EU aims for ‘post-industrial revolution’ in energy policy

The EU proposed to slash greenhouse emissions by a fifth by 2020, and pledged to raise the bar to 30% if joined by other developed nations - the level of carbon cuts needed to avert "massive and irreversible" climate-caused destruction, it said.

Europe wants to accelerate the shift to renewables in the electricity, biofuel and heating and cooling sectors as well as cutting energy waste by 20%, the Commission announced on Wednesday as it set out its plans for a common EU energy policy. Biofuels should take a 10% share in the transport fuel market by 2020, according to the plans, but specific measures in the biofuel and heating sectors will have to wait for new renewbales legislation due out this year.

The next stage for the proposals, which are not even in the form of draft legislation as they stand, will be the March summit of EU leaders.

Weighing up climate and energy security against competitiveness, the EU proposed a 20% emission cut on 1990 levels, but at the same time challenged other developed countries to a joint 30% cut target for 2020.

A 30% reduction in developed world emissions is “an essential step” towards reducing global greenhouse emissions by 50% below 1990 levels by 2050 – needed to limit global warming to 2 degrees C thus preventing “massive and irreversible disruptions to the climate system,” according to the Commission.

Europe’s plans also include making all new power stations carbon-neutral by 2019 using a combination of renewables and carbon capture and storage. To boost technological development, it promised to boost energy research spending by 50% over the next seven years.

Announcing the plans, commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso called for a “revolution” in energy use in Europe and across the world:

“We need news policies to face a new reality – policies which maintain Europe’s competitiveness, protect our environment and make our energy supplies more secure.

“Europe must lead the world into a new, or maybe one should say post-industrial revolution – the development of a low-carbon economy,” he said.

But environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth pointed out the inconsistency between the EU’s findings that a 30% emission cut was “essential” to ward off climate disaster and its own 20% goal:

FoE’s Jan Kowalzig said: “Scientific findings show that it simply won’t be enough for the EU to only reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020 if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change.

“If EU governments confirm a target below 30 percent at the upcoming EU Summit, it will be a punch in the face for everyone already suffering from floods or droughts.”

More details on the European Commission’s energy proposals can be found here.

Goska Romanowicz

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