UN chief and Gore back EC targets

The European Commission has won backing from United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and former US vice-president Al Gore for dropping nationally-binding renewables targets.

The European Commision this week proposed a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 and a target of “at least 27%” renewable energy which would be “binding on the EU” but “not be binding on member states individually”.

While the EU's emissions reduction target would be divided into national targets for the 28 member states, the renewables goal wouldn’t be split between them.

The EU move has led to criticism from Brussels lobby groups and environmentalists that Europe is retreating from wind and solar power.

“I think these extreme weather events which are now a hundred times more common than 30 years ago are really waking people’s awareness all over the world (on climate change), and I think that is a gamechanger,” says Gore, who is a leading campaigner on global warming issues.

“It comes about, of course, because we continue to put 90 million tonnes of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every day, as if it’s an open sewer,” he adds.

But Gore contends that the falling price of solar and wind power gave hope for efforts to tackle climate change.

“There’s a second game-changer, which is that the cost down-curve for photovoltaic electricity and, to a lesser extent, wind. In 13 countries, the price of solar is cheaper than or equal to the electricity grid average price.”

He claimed within a decade most people would live in regions where that was true. Talking about the falling costs of the technologies, he said “it is very impressive that it is opening up great opportunities for the world to solve climate change.”

“I am actually encouraged by what the EU has done, and I think they’ve gotten a little bit of unfair criticism,” Gore said in a panel discussion at Davos. Ban said he agreed with Gore.

The EU is trying to set the lead in fighting climate change while limiting rises in consumer energy bills that have increased in part due to subsidies for renewables and carbon pricing.

The European Wind Energy Association said the EU proposal was “weak” and the renewables goal was a “non-target,” while its solar energy counterpart, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association, said it was a “lame-duck” proposal.  

“Yes, they rolled back the mandated targets for renewables, but they actually moved aggressively forward adopting a binding target for a 40% reduction in carbon,” Gore said.

Ban said that the EU “has started the ball rolling” as more than 190 countries work together to devise a global deal to fight climate change in 2015 that would apply from 2020 onwards.

Ban is convening world leaders at a meeting in New York in September to try to inject momentum into that process.