EU climate package: Leaders agree on 40% emissions cut by 2030

The 28 leaders of the European Union have committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, despite deep divisions among some Member States over how to produce energy.

Talks in Brussels stretched into the early hours of Friday (24 October) as the European Council set out its stall for action on climate change ahead of the global UN Summit in Paris next year. (Scroll down for full agreement)

— EU climate talks: Industry reaction —

As well as carbon emissions, two 27% targets were agreed – for renewable energy market share and increase in energy efficiency improvement. The former will be binding for the EU as a whole (not for individual Member States), while the latter will be optional but could be raised to 30% after a review in 2020. All three targets are compared to 1990 levels.

At an early-morning news conference, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said these new targets “will ensure that Europe will be an important player – will be an important party – in future binding commitments of an international climate agreement”.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy admitted the final targets were not easy to agree; noting that three principles had guided the EU decision-making. “First, fairness: every country contributes, according to their prosperity and capacity,” said Van Rompuy. “Second, solidarity: with extra support for lower-income countries, both through adequate targets and through additional funds to help them catch up in their clean-energy transition. Third, thriftiness: the money should be spent in the most cost-effective way, from a Europe-wide perspective.”

Van Rompuy went on to confirm that some poorer EU members will receive help in the form of additional funding to reach the agreed targets.

— Edie explains: The EU climate talks —

The Brussels Summit – which was initially scheduled to take place much earlier in the year – was dominated by arguments over energy savings and climate policy, with particular divisions within the EU on emissions cuts. Affluent countries such as Germany and Denmark – which have stong emissions records – were calling for ambitious EU targets, while countries with poorer emissions records – such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – were opposed to the targets, insisting they should be lower. 

Poland, which is heavily reliant on coal, spoke of fears that the costs of decarbonising its economy will slow business growth; while Portugal – which had reportedly been considering blocking the entire energy and climate change package – pushed through a non-binding objective that 15% of the bloc’s energy be transportable via cross-border connections by 2030.

The UK was among the countries that successfuly opposed nationally binding targets for renewables – mainly wind, solar and hydroelectric power – as Prime Minister David Cameron is keen to minimise any perceived loss of UK sovereignty over energy policy. The UK is instead embracing shale gas and nuclear as alternatives to the current over-reliance on oil and gas imports.

So, final targets were eventually agreed for the 28-nation bloc, but they were slightly watered down. The European Commission had originally called for an efficiency goal of 30% – that was reduced to 27% across the EU and is not legally binding at the national level or EU level.

The renewables target of at least 27% is binding at EU-wide level but, after the aforementioned opposition from the UK and a few other Member States, it will not be binding at national level. Environmental groups have therefore welcomed the deal, but many are claiming it did not go far enough.

Europe is currently on track to meet goals adopted in 2009 to cut emissions 20% by 2020 and have 20% of energy come from renewable sources such as wind power. View an interactive map which tracks EU emissions over the past 150 years here.

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. 

REPORT: 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework

Luke Nicholls

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