Thursday, 6 February 2014

European parliament votes for stronger climate targets

The European parliament voted on Wednesday to require member states to meet binding national targets on renewable energy, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.

In a decisive vote, 341 to 263 MEPs called for three binding targets for 2030: a 40% cut in greenhouse gases, compared with 1990 levels; at least 30% of energy to come from renewable sources; and a 40% improvement in energy efficiency.

This was stronger than the proposal from the European commission last month, that called for 27% of energy to come from renewable sources by the same date. Under the commission’s plan, there was no target for energy efficiency, and – crucially – the UK was successful in ensuring that the renewables target would be binding only at the bloc level.

That would mean that individual member states need not have their own national target, as there is now for 2020. The UK government is strongly against having a national renewable energy target, arguing that a greenhouse gas reduction target is sufficient.

But the MEPs voted to require binding national renewable energy targets, though by a slightly slimmer margin at 347 to 308. That vote will be taken into account when member states meet again on the subject in March. However, if member states prefer to stick to the settlement made last month, without binding national targets, the parliament has no power to reverse that.

Ed Davey, secretary of state for energy and climate change said: “The right 2030 package will unlock low carbon investment, while keeping consumers’ energy bills down. The vote in the European Parliament is one stage in the process and we are pleased that MEPs have come out in favour of an ambitious climate package for 2030.

“I am leading the argument for the right package through the Green Growth Group, which fifteen countries are now part of. Over the last two days I have been talking to my colleagues in Berlin and in Paris to ensure we can get agreement to a progressive plan that will reduce emissions without unnecessary costs.”

Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate commissioner, said the vote was a “good result” and she hoped European governments would “listen” to it. Green campaigners and renewable energy companies welcomed the vote, saying it showed that the 2030 proposals should be strengthened.

Stephane Bourgeois, of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), which represents the industry, said: “The European parliament has again shown it is the most forward-thinking of the EU’s institutions. It has resisted lobbying from backward-looking organisations – this enlightened result is a kick in the teeth for the European commission and its bloodless 2030 proposal last month. Heads of state must pay heed to the parliament.”

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European parliament votes for stronger climate targets

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