EU ministers settle around 27%

Europe’s energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger

Europe’s energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger

European ministers today broadly backed proposals for a 27% EU-wide binding renewable energy target for 2030 and a 40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal after two days of meetings in Brussels.

Thirteen of the ministers urged European heads of state to reach an agreement on the main elements of 2030 environment and energy policy when they meet later this month, or risk deterring investors and delaying efforts to get a global climate change deal.

However, there were few signs of decisive momentum towards the higher, 30% renewables target and imposition of binding national goals that many in the European clean-energy industry are hoping for.

There was strong opposition from Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, which issued in a joint statement saying the 2030 carbon goal should be set at a “realistic level” and take into account UN talks about a global deal to be agreed in 2015.

Europe’s energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger said after the meeting: “In the past some subsidies went in the wrong way to renewables.

“So in the future we want to promote infrastructure for renewables in a more harmonised way.”

The meeting broadly supported the European Commission’s January policy vision, based around a 27% EU share for renewables and a fully-binding 2030 target to cut carbon emissions by 40% compared with 1990 levels.

Oettinger said: “However, what we now need to agree in the next month is burden sharing arrangements whereby the ‘greener nations’ of the UK, France and Germany voluntarily support the poorer nations of Europe to reach the new target.

“If we collectively start to fall short of an overall EU 27% renewables target, that is where burden sharing will fall into place."

German energy minister Sigmar Gabriel – who supports greater ambition – acknowledged that the positions of EU member states on climate targets were still divergent.

Germany supports a GHG reduction target of at least 40%, a binding expansion target for renewables of at least 30%, and an individual energy efficiency goal.

The most prominent opposition among the 28 EU member states came from Poland, which is no hurry to reach a political deal on 2030 targets.

"We can work with Poland to get an agreement in March," said the UK’s energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey, before adding: "I'm not saying it's going to be easy."

A full legislative proposal is not expected until next year, when a new set of Commissioners will have taken office, meaning it will take years to finalise a 2030 package.

However, an outline agreement from all leaders this month would be a strong signal.

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