Photo: looking4poetry / Flickr

Brussels crawls towards Paris with new targets for renewables and energy efficiency

The European Union has raised its renewables and energy efficiency targets, but campaigners say they still fall well short of what is required to deliver the Paris agreement.

After a series of late-night meetings, some lasting until the small hours of the morning, negotiators for European governments and MEPs have finally reached compromises on crucial elements of the Commissions ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package.

But campaigners are disappointed with the results.

Roland Joebstl, Policy Officer for Climate and Energy at the EEB, said the EU’s new 32.5% target was insufficient:

“The outcome of the negotiations is disappointing as anything less than a 40% improvement means delivering the Paris Agreement will be more difficult and more costly.

Joebstl continued: “Energy efficiency is the cheapest and most effective route to cut climate-harming emissions and protect citizens from devastating climate change. Put quite simply: we cannot achieve the Paris Agreement without tapping the full potential of energy savings.”

Climate campaigners had hoped that new governments in Spain and Italy could help to increase ambition but German energy minister Peter Altmaier poured cold water on talks when he explained why his government would block higher targets last week.

Bulgaria, which is currently hosting the EU’s rotating presidency, had worked hard to deliver a deal before handing over to Austria next month.

Energy efficiency stakeholders from across industry and civil society had been calling for a binding 40% energy efficiency target, which they argued would reflect the most cost-effective energy savings potential.

As part of the compromise the negotiators agreed to review the level of the target in 2023, leaving the door open for ambition to be raised in five years’ time.

Joesbtl was disappointed that despite backing for a higher target from some member states, the final deal would need to be revisited in the near future:

“Despite support from leading countries like France and Sweden for a higher efficiency target of 35% the final result of is merely a door-opener for higher ambition in 2023. Europe must do more on energy efficiency to protect EU citizens from harmful climate change. We count on the climate frontrunners to stick to their commitments in five years.”

Climate campaigners meanwhile described the 32% figure finally agreed as the EU’s binding renewable target as no more than “baby steps” towards what is required.

Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) said: “If the EU is to make the most of the benefits that renewable energy sources have to offer in terms of job creation, reductions in energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions cuts.”

Trio argued:

The agreed 2030 binding target of 32% should be seen as a starting line for the race to greater ambition.”

CAN Europe recently published a new report comparing EU countries ambition and progress in fighting climate change. It finds that the vast majority of European countries are missing the mark and failing to increase our chances of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.