MEPs back energy savings to rescue Europe’s climate policy

The European Parliament has this week approved a number of measures to help Europe meet climate commitments made in the Paris Agreement.

European countries have been criticised for failing to approve sufficient measures to tackle climate change so far, but MEPs hope that European action can provide the impetus and oversight required to ramp-up climate action.

In votes held in Strasbourg, the European Parliament approved a number of positions on a series of new EU laws collectively known as the ‘Clean Energy Package’.

Welcoming the progress, EEB Climate and Energy Policy Officer Roland Joebstl said:

“It was a good day for the climate, but following the Parliament’s lead, it’s now over to national governments to start matching their rhetoric with effective action to cut emissions. Energy efficiency is the cheapest and most effective way to do this.”

New European laws are drafted between the European Parliament and national government ministers in the Council. Ministers have consistently shown less ambition than MEPs on climate issues, despite strong statement made by their governments on the international stage.

The 2018 Climate Change Performance Index shows that no country is currently doing enough to meet its Paris commitments entirely, although some EU Member States are performing significantly better than others.

Sweden, Lithuania and nine other EU states were nevertheless given a ‘high’ rating in the Index. Ireland was the worst performing European country, rated as ‘very low’.

German inertia on climate action has become a recurring topic in ongoing negotiations to form the country’s new government. In a draft agreement shared last week, the socialist and Christian parties reaffirmed their commitment to 2020 and 2030 goals and promised to announce the date of a national coal phase out before the end of this year. Legislative measures are yet to published.

At the EU-level, this week’s European Parliament votes called for higher targets for renewable energy, energy efficiency and ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050.

If accepted by the Council, the EU will need to produce at least 35% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. A target that is seen as insufficient by environmentalists but overambitious by certain coal-addicted countries.

A binding target of 35% was also agreed for energy efficiency measures which will need to reduce the amount of energy that is currently wasted, for example by improving insulation and imposing minimum performance requirements for households and industry.

 Experts also welcomed the European Parliament’s decision to inclusion to extending the reach of energy efficiency rules to tackle pollution and energy waste in the transport sector. Joebstl added:

“Governments must now join the European Parliament’s fight to stop dirty diesel and ensure the energy efficiency success story is extended to transport”

The Parliament also agreed on reaching zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A target greeted by the director of the climate thinktank E3G with a single word: “Gamechanger”.

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