EU climate package: Industry reaction

In the early hours' of Friday morning, European leaders committed to a 2030 deadline to reduce carbon emissions by at least 40%, and to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use by at least 27%.

— EU climate package: Full round-up —

The deal, struck in the early hours of Friday (24 October), has predictably generated a flurry of responses from the climate activists and the energy and renewables sectors, with executives feeling broadly underwhelmed with ‘unambitious’ targets.

Mahi Sideridou – Greenpeace EU managing director 

The global fight against climate change needs radical shock treatment, but what the EU is offering is at best a whiff of smelling salts. People across Europe want cleaner energy, but EU leaders are knocking the wind out of Europe’s booming renewables sector. Europe can and should do more to stop the most devastating impacts of climate change.

New Commission president Juncker and his team have said they want to make Europe a leader in renewable energy. They now need to table watertight climate and energy legislation. Importantly, these new laws must stop giving dirty energy companies and polluting industries a free ride.

Jason Anderson – WWF European policy office head of EU climate and energy 

European leaders are sacrificing our futures on the altar of politics. Today’s result seems designed keep vested interests from the old economy happy, at the cost of the wellbeing of citizens and forward-looking industries. Big polluters will be pleased since they may escape a meaningful pollution price signal for at least another decade.

These renewable energy and efficiency targets are near or even below business as usual trends. The carbon market will remain irrelevant for a decade and there’s nothing here to reign in coal power. Europe’s early efforts to combat climate change and advance clean energy have been set adrift by Council.

The coming months will be crucial to avoid the worst implications of this decision. The EU will need to revise its target upwards, as it is asking other countries in the UN to do. Those Member States who see the benefits of climate action will try to fill the void with domestic policy, but action will be fractured, and an EU policy response will be necessary.

Brook Riley – Friends of the Earth Europe climate justice and energy campaigner 

To describe 40% emissions cuts as adequate or ambitious, as EU leaders are doing, is dangerously irresponsible. 40% is off the radar of climate science. This deal does nothing to end Europe’s dependency on fossil fuels or to speed up our transition to a clean energy future. It’s a deal that puts dirty industry interests ahead of citizens and the planet.

A 27% non-binding energy savings target means slowing down progress on energy efficiency at a time when Europe is facing energy insecurity and is considering dangerous and costly alternatives, like shale gas, tar sands and nuclear, to meet demand.

Katja Hall – CBI Deputy Director-General 

“A binding target of 40% emissions reduction is the right result to achieve our energy and climate goals.
“The UK government has worked effectively with other allies to ensure member states have the flexibility to meet it in the way that best suits their own circumstances. Now the Commission must get on with the important task of reforming the EU emissions trading system, while making sure that our energy intensive industries get the support they need to maintain their competitiveness.

“This agreement also lays a firm foundation for the climate negotiations next year in Paris, and Europe’s leaders must now work hard towards securing an equally ambitious target from other countries.”

Nick Molho – Aldersgate Group executive director

European leaders have made the right decision to commit to a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of at least 40% by 2030, which keeps open the option to increase the EU’s commitment to a higher and more adequate target in the event of successful climate negotiations in Paris next year. Beyond the obvious environmental benefits, recent research shows that a strong greenhouse gas target is in the interest of the UK economy and we therefore urge the UK Government to push for an ambitious international deal on climate change in 2015.

It is on the other hand disappointing that the package contains insufficient ambition on energy efficiency, one of the cheapest ways of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, protecting consumers against rising energy bills and improving energy security. We urge the next Government to make energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority in the UK to ensure it’s environmental, economic and energy security benefits can be maximised.

Gareth Stace – EEF (manufacturer’s organisation) head of climate and environment policy

The EU now has an emissions target broadly in line with the UK’s own ambitions, helping level the playing field for UK manufacturers and strengthening the market for low-carbon goods and services.

EU leaders have signalled that they recognise the importance of protecting carbon-intensive industries threatened by overseas competitors from the full costs of the EU emissions trading system. But, we will be watching closely over the coming months to ensure these fine words translate into real action to improve what is currently a rather problematic protective system.

However, the EU-wide renewables and energy efficiency targets are a fudge that are unlikely to address the current inefficiencies caused by overlapping sets of goals and incentives.

Matthew Spencer – Green Alliance director

The EU2030 carbon reduction agreement is real progress because it locks 27 other European countries into the same emissions reduction trajectory set by the UK’s Climate Change Act. The fourth carbon budget pathway has now been adopted by the world’s largest trading block which makes it many times more powerful, and avoids the UK being isolated.  

Ed Davey’s green growth group deserves much of the credit for keeping a decent carbon reduction target in the deal. The non-binding nature of the agreement on energy saving and renewables, at the  UK’s insistence, means that the onus is now on the Prime Minister to show how he’ll use the ‘flexibility’ secured in the deal to ramp up the UK’s low carbon energy programme.

Richard Black – Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) director 

The EU deal was probably the best compromise that progressive countries could hope for, given concerns of various nations about coal-burning and competitiveness.

However, it is also a compromise with the climate system and with the needs of future generations. It’s not at all clear that this deal will allow the EU to meet its long-term target of virtually eliminating carbon emissions by mid-century, which science suggests is necessary for limiting global warming to 2 Celsius.

The next generation of European leaders may look back and conclude that this generation has given them a hospital pass.

Nusa Urbancic – Transport & Environment (lobby group) clean energy manager

The real-world impact of today’s adopted targets will very much hinge on how Europe will actually go about them. It is up to the incoming Juncker Commission to make sure they are met in real life and not just on paper and give investors the right signals. Keeping transport out of the ETS and adopting new fuel efficiency standards for all vehicles are one example. Limiting the role of bioenergy and biofuels – zero emissions on paper, often a lot in reality – in favour of solar and wind is another.

Biofuels are an object lesson in what happens if you set wrong targets. Juncker’s commission has the chance to fix this once and for all by focusing their attention on low carbon energy sources, especially clean electricity, that deliver for the climate. Ensuring that we spend the billions of public money on sustainable electrification of transport instead of bad biofuels should be a top priority. 

It is important when the government is setting its next set of domestic targets for 2032 that it does not push UK manufacturers far beyond what their continental competitors have to do.

Dr Alison Doig – Christian Aid senior adviser on climate change

The important words in the agreement are ‘at least’, as ideally the EU will need to ratchet up its target as global negotiations move forward. Forty per cent is the bare minimum if EU states are to play a full role in keeping the global temperature rise down.

It is essential now that all EU countries refocus their energy strategies away from the burning of fossil fuels towards sustainable and renewable sources such as solar, wind and tide. If the energy strategies don’t change, then even that target will not be met.

It is encouraging that countries which continue to depend on coal power, such as Poland, were not able to reduce the target as they had threatened, although concessions were made to keep them on board.

The UK, together with France, Germany and Sweden each played a significant part in holding the line. The EU needs to be ahead of the curve on developing and implementing clean, modern energy if it is to be a global market leader.

Martin Schoenberg – Climate Change Capital (environmental asset managers) head of policy

The 40% target is the minimum needed to signal continued political commitment to decarbonisation and, taking into account the resistance even this modest target faced, to get an agreement is a major achievement. The major problem is that there is no national accountability, only an EU wide one, on renewables and energy efficiency so the stage is set for even more tortuous talks and arguments between EU states, not all of whom will be willing to pull their weight.

It is essential that investors – who need long term certainty before they write the big cheques to decarbonise our energy supplies – get enough signals of purpose and stability from national governments to take the plunge. The one thing that is clear is that setting a price for carbon, through the European Trading Scheme, is pivotal – although there is little being said about reforming the ETS. The present price for carbon is not high enough to deter polluters.

Setting the EU targets is the easy part. The implementation is a different matter. Four things need to happen: national support for energy reform and clean technologies; greater consultation with neighbouring countries; improved grid interconnection and the streamlining of EU objectives on climate change, energy security and support for clean energy.

The coming months will be crucial to avoid the worst implications of this decision. The EU will need to revise its target upwards, as it is asking other countries in the UN to do. Those Member States who see the benefits of climate action will try to fill the void with domestic policy, but action will be fractured, and an EU policy response will be necessary.

Andrew Warren – Association for the Conservation of Energy president

One might expect leaders to lead .Instead, the European Heads of Government Council is sending confused completely messages on energy efficiency. At its March meeting, energy efficiency was declared the top priority to increase energy security and boost growth. Today the target presented is so low that it is meaninglessly voluntary, and if implemented would effectively make it so expensive to deliver the legally binding 40% reduction in greenhouse gases.

Stephanie Pfeifer – Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change chief executive

“Today’s agreement on a binding emissions reduction target of at least 40% is a positive step and a clear signal to investors. The EU must use this to help secure strong emissions pledges from other countries and drive progress towards an international agreement.

“Given the potential for energy savings to reduce costs and boost energy security, the non-binding 27% energy efficiency target is disappointing and sends a weak signal. We would urge the Commission to revise this target well in advance of 2020.

“Interconnectivity is a critical component of a low carbon transition. The EU should urgently set out the measures it proposes to take to deliver the 10% interconnectivity target. Greater ambition will be needed if the EU is to achieve its goal of an energy union backed by an integrated energy system.

“The EU said today that the Emissions Trading System will be the main driver of emissions reductions. It can only do this when it is properly reformed, yet under the current plans this will not happen for another six years. Waiting until 2021 before introducing the market stability reserve would compromise the ability of the ETS to deliver emissions reductions and new low carbon investment. The EU should bring forward the market stability reserve start date to 2017 to strengthen the carbon price and kick-start investment.”

Your view

What do you think? Were you equally underwhelmed with these new targets, or is this at least a step in the right direction for the EU ahead of Paris 2015? Leave a comment below or tweet us @edie to let us know your thoughts.

Brad Allen

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